By SÍLE MOLONEY
Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark and New York City Police Commissioner Dermot Shea announced on Thursday, Feb. 24, that a Bronx man has been indicted for the sex-trafficking of a 28-year-old New Jersey woman, and is also under another indictment for sex-trafficking a 15-year-old Brooklyn girl. In both cases he allegedly beat and choked the victims.
Clark said the defendant, Reginald Cooke, AKA Reggie, 31, of Anderson Avenue in Highbridge, was arraigned on Thursday on three counts of sex trafficking, second-degree promoting prostitution, second-degree strangulation, criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation, fourth-degree promoting prostitution, third-degree assault, fourth-degree criminal mischief, two counts of endangering the welfare of a child, attempted sex trafficking, and attempted promoting prostitution in the second and fourth degree before Bronx Supreme Court Justice, Albert Lorenzo. The defendant was remanded, and is due back in court on March 2, 2021.
According to the investigation, between August 21 and October 8, 2020, the victim met two individuals at a South Hackensack, N.J. motel who then referred her to Cooke. The defendant told the victim she could have a better life and convinced her to stay with her two children in his Bronx home.
Cooke allegedly took photos of the victim and posted them as ads on sex websites. The victim allegedly performed sexual acts with approximately 10-15 Johns per day in Cooke’s apartment, or at an apartment nearby. He allegedly imposed specific rules, and when the victim did not comply, he would allegedly slap, punch and choke her and pull her hair. He also plied her with PCP (phenylcyclohexyl piperidine, also known as angel dust among other names). It is a drug used for its mind-altering effects.
On October 8, 2020, the victim told the defendant that she did not want to work for him anymore, and wanted to leave. Cooke allegedly became enraged and yelled and hit her in front of her two children. The victim called the police and left for New Jersey. An investigation began by the Bronx DA’s Human Trafficking Unit (HTU) and the NYPD Human Trafficking Unit.
Cooke is also charged with co-defendants Laura Sue Haste, AKA Chanel Foxx, 38, of Florida, and Robert Wilson, AKA Tiger, 31, of East 148th Street in the South Bronx, for sex trafficking of a child, in a case involving a 15-year-old victim who had run away from home and was reported missing by her mother.
According to the investigation, in September 2019, the girl went to Wilson’s Bronx home and engaged in sexual intercourse with him and his partner, and began “working” for Wilson. In New York, it is illegal for an adult (someone 18 or older) to have sex with a minor (someone younger than 17).
On Aug. 3, 2020, Wilson allegedly “sold” the 15-year-old victim to Cooke for $300. Cooke allegedly took the victim to his home and he and Haste refused to let her leave. During that time, the victim was subjected to sexual intercourse with Cooke. Cooke allegedly beat the teen to instill fear: punching, slapping and choking her.
The defendant allegedly coordinated meetings with Johns and managed prices and payments. He allegedly gave the teen clothes, a list of rules and hired a photographer to take pictures of her. He then uploaded those pictures as ads on sex websites.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children saw her photos when the ads started popping up and notified the NYPD. On August 21, 2020, the girl was rescued by the Human Trafficking Major Case Team after an undercover detective set up a date with the victim.
Cooke and the co-defendants were arraigned on October 29, 2020 on a 22-count indictment charging sex trafficking of a child, second-degree promoting prostitution, two counts of third-degree promoting prostitution and fourth degree promoting prostitution before Bronx Supreme Court, Justice Michael Gross.
Cooke was additionally charged with three counts of sex trafficking, second-degree promoting prostitution, third-degree rape, third-degree criminal sexual act, second-degree unlawful imprisonment and third-degree assault. Haste was also charged with third-degree criminal sexual act, and Wilson was charged with third-degree rape, two counts of third-degree criminal sexual act, sex trafficking of a child, and second, third and fourth-degree promoting prostitution. An indictment is not proof of a defendant’s guilt.
Bail was set in the amount of $250,000 cash/$350,000 insurance bond/$500,000 partially secured bond at 10 percent with an examination of surety. On January 21, 2021, Cooke was released from Rikers Island, and immediately contacted the New Jersey complainant and attempted to sex traffic her again. He was indicted on Feb. 5, 2021, on the case involving that victim.
Speaking at the announcement of Cooke’s latest charges, Clark said, “The defendant stands charged in two separate cases of assaulting females to force them into selling themselves for sex. He was indicted last October for trafficking a 15-year-old runaway, whom he allegedly ‘bought’ for $300 from another alleged pimp.”
She continued, “After he was released on bail in January, he turned to his other victim and allegedly tried to coerce her into prostitution. He is now indicted for his alleged crimes against that victim as well. Sex trafficking is a heinous and despicable crime and we must do everything to stop it and to help the traumatized victims.”
Meanwhile, Shea said the NYPD was committed to combating sex trafficking, protecting sex trafficking survivors and fighting every day on behalf of society’s most vulnerable individuals. “I thank and commend the Human Trafficking Squad of the NYPD’s Vice Enforcement Unit and the Bronx District Attorney’s office for their ongoing efforts to eradicate trafficking in our city and to bring justice to the victims of these heinous crimes.”
Norwood News reported last year on the work of Freedom Youth NYC in combatting sex trafficking among vulnerable Bronx youth, as well as on a sex trafficking ring, which had been run out of various Bronx motels.
The latest cases, referenced here, pertaining to the 28-year-old New Jersey woman, are being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Stephanie M. Reilly of the Human Trafficking Unit, under the supervision of Stephen Knoepfler, Chief of the Human Trafficking Unit (HTU), and under the overall supervision of Joseph Muroff, Chief of the Special Victims Division.
Clark thanked Rhayvan Jackson Terrell, social worker in the Bronx DA”s HTU, as well as the HTU major case team of NYPD Vice Enforcement Division Detective, Mark Shackel, Detective Judith Moreno, and Lieutenant Amy Capogna for their work in the investigation.
If you are a victim of human trafficking, or if you have information about other victims, please call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888, or the Bronx DA’s Crime Victims Assistance Unit, (718) 590-2115.