RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A New Jersey man is facing human trafficking charges, accused of pimping out two women in Cary.
Mark Benavidez, 36, of Passaic, New Jersey, is charged with two counts of felony human trafficking adult victim, two counts of sexual servitude adult victim, and one count of misdemeanor aid and abet prostitution.
He is accused of recruiting, enticing, harboring, transporting or obtaining two women “with the intent that the other person be held in sexual servitude” and that they make money by “providing sexual favors to others,” the magistrate’s order states.
Benavidez is also accused of plying the women with heroin and then “taking advantage of the sickness that accompanies the heroin usage for the purposes of making money by way of the victim performing sexual acts for that money.”
The documents show that any money made by the two women was to be turned over to the 36-year-old New Jersey man.
It’s the most recent of many human trafficking cases in North Carolina, which is ranked among the top 10 states in the nation for human trafficking.
The large highway system in North Carolina helps provide easy access to trafficking human victims. And that is why cities such as Raleigh, Greensboro and Charlotte are hubs for human trafficking, according to experts.
In North Carolina, human trafficking is also on the rise, according to numbers from the National Human Trafficking Hotline. In 2015, there were 110 reported cases of human trafficking. In 2016, there were 181.
“It’s a huge problem in our very own community,” said Steven Long, the area commander for The Salvation Army of Wake County. “Most folks aren’t aware of it, but we’re challenged with it on a daily basis.”
Emily Davis, a sophomore at Wake Tech, started a non-profit to raise awareness about the issue after meeting classmates who were victims of human trafficking.
“To know that there are so many victims in the world who are just looking up at the sky at night, saying please someone help me,” said Davis, the founder of Humans for Justice. “That just really provokes me and makes me want to make more change in the community.”
The state has even stepped in with the governor signing a bill into law that makes human trafficking a higher-level felony.
That means those like Benavidez would face longer prison sentences if convicted.
Benavidez was given a $502,000 secured bond for all charges and is being held in the Wake County Detention Center.