STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — A 43-year-old Stapleton man flashed a phony police badge and threatened to harm a woman and her family if she did not prostitute herself on the borough, authorities allege.
Miguel Daniel Gatica Zeferino, of Tompkins Street, was arrested on Saturday on charges of sex trafficking and promoting prostitution for incidents from March through September of 2019, according to the criminal complaint.
The victim was in her early 20s at the time, according to a source with knowledge of the investigation.
The suspect forced the victim to “engage in prostitution by intimidation,” in a scheme which caused her to fear “for her safety and the safety of her family should she refuse to continue prostituting herself, make a report to police, or leave the defendant’s operation,” the complaint alleges.
Authorities allege that Gatica Zeferino “made threats to the informant, including but not limited to displaying what appeared to be a police badge.”
He told the victim that he “had contacts within the police department, and other contacts that the informant did not know about all over the world, that would locate the informant and cause physical harm to her family,” the complaint alleges.
He told the woman he would find her, even if she was “under a rock,” according to the complaint.
He also allegedly lied and made false promises to the victim by telling her that he was saving money for her to use at a later date to start a business.
The investigation was handled by the NYPD Vice Squad.
Bond has been set at $100,000 for the suspect, who is due back in Criminal Court on Thursday, according to public records.
An attorney for the defendant did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
PROSTITUTION LEGISLATION IN STATE
Several Democratic lawmakers in New York are fighting to change laws in the state to protect sex workers who may be vulnerable.
They have cited the deportable element of prostitution laws, which they say pimps use as one tactic to threaten sex workers who in many cases already are trapped by poverty, a language barrier and threats of violence to their families back home.
A bill introduced recently by state Sen. Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan) would decriminalize prostitution for the person performing the work, while still holding clients, traffickers and pimps accountable.
Another large coalition of lawmakers, legal experts and advocates want to decriminalize for sex workers and customers.
A 2019 bill sponsored by state Sen. Julia Salazar (D-Brooklyn) and Assemblyman Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan) would do just that. The two lawmakers have argued previously it would make for a safer environment for sex workers and their clients by eliminating the fear of arrest.