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Brothel-Related Murder Investigations Lead to More Arrests, Including Three Men From New Brunswick

4 Men Were Arrested, and 1 Man In Custody Received Additional Charges, For Their Alleged Involvement in Two South Jersey Murders
Bridgeton Police Dept.

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Further investigation into the murders of two men in Cumberland County has led to the arrests of three New Brunswick men and one Somerset man, and new charges for a man arrested last week and accused of running a human trafficking operation that exploited undocumented immigrants in a statewide network of prostitution houses.

Juan Fredy Hernandez-Zozaya, 36, was already in custody after being arrested along with his wife Elizabeth Rojas Rojas on September 18 and charged with running eight brothels in six different New Jersey cities, including New Brunswick, Trenton, Bridgeton, Lakewood, Orange, and Asbury Park.

Now Hernandez-Zozaya also faces charges that he orchestrated the killings of a man who allegedly worked in his criminal enterprise, and another man who ran a competing brothel in Bridgeton.

Authorities say 24-year-old Jose Ortiz was likely killed over a "business problem" at one of the couple's brothels in Bridgeton, according to published reports.

Two weeks later, 32-year-old Eduardo Bernal may have been killed for allegedly running a competing brothel nearby, according to authorities.

Hernandez-Zozaya and Rojas already face federal charges of harboring aliens for the purpose of prostitution, and harboring aliens for the purpose of financial gain.

The federal human trafficking case against Hernandez-Zozaya and Rojas began more than three years ago when federal agents raided three brothels in New Brunswick, including two that authorities say were run by the couple.

Some sources have indicated Hernandez-Zozaya and Rojas were Middlesex County residents, based out of New Brunswick. Other sources have reported that Hernandez-Zozaya is a resident of Passaic.

Hernandez-Zozaya, as well as Aris Tejada and Ricardo Then-Flete, both 22-year-old men from New Brunswick, and Andy Reyes, 18, of Somerset, were each charged with two counts of murder and two counts of conspiracy to commit murder.

Hernandez-Zozaya is also charged with the promotion of organized street crime, while the other three were charged with various weapons offenses.

Antonio Estrella, 30, of New Brunswick, was also charged with conspiracy to commit murder in the death of of Bernal.  Then-Flete and Reyes were also charged with robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery in that incident.

All of the suspects are currently in custody at correctional facilities across the state, according to authorities.

Hernandez-Zozaya is being held in Essex County Jail in federal custody on $1 million bail.

Tejada is being held on $750,000 bail at the Middlesex County Adult Correctional Center, while Reyes and Estrella are being held in the same facility on $500,000 bail.  Then-Flete is being held in Cumberland County Jail on $500,000.