BENSALEM, PA—A 32-year-old New Brunswick man who previously attended Somerville High School has been sentenced to more than a decade in state prison for turning an out-of-state motel into a brothel where women were paid in heroin or crack cocaine.
Christopher DeGrasse was arrested on April 5 at the Best Western Motel in the 3400 block of Street Road in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, according to Bucks County authorities.
DeGrasse “ensnared drug-dependent women into lives of prostitution, controlling them with financial quotas and threats of violence,” according to a press release from the Bucks County Prosecutor’s Office.
The victims of the criminal enterprise told police that DeGrasse would photograph them, advertising them on a website known for soliciting prostitution, set rates for their services, and enforce “strict quotas” for how much revenue they had to make each day.
While those who met their quotas–typically $800 per day–were compensated with heroin or crack cocaine, those who did not “were threatened with or subjected to physical violence,” according to the official statement.
One of the victims claimed that DeGrasse had beaten her numerous times and prevented her from escaping during her nine months working for him.
“The only way you are leaving is in a body bag,” DeGrasse allegedly told her.
Another woman told police that she was told she would have to pay an “exit fee” of $1,000 to leave the horrific situation, and told police that the defendant would kill her if he learned she was talking with police.
Now, less than six months after his arrest, DeGrasse has been sentenced after pleading guilty to “trafficking in individuals for financial gain, promoting prostitution, corrupt organizations and drug trafficking.”
Bucks County Judge Wallace H. Bateman Jr. sentenced DeGrasse to serve between 11 and a half and 23 years in state prison, accepting a negotiated plea deal.
“The sentence appears to be commensurate with the crime,” said Bateman, noting that both were “particularly harsh.”
The sentence was handed down on September 26, and DeGrasse was given until October 4 “to get his affairs in order” before reporting to state prison.
Meanwhile, a 23-year-old Woodbridge woman named Kiahna Dade is still facing charges for allegedly assisting DeGrasse in his illegal business.
As part of the plea agreement with DeGrasse, Dade will be allowed to receive a sentence for her role that equates to the amount of time she has already served, according to District Attorney Matthew Weintraub.
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate, a community organizer, and a former independent candidate for mayor of New Brunswick.