MAYS LANDING — A Ventnor man accused of running a house of prostitution out of his Newport Avenue apartment requested a probable-cause hearing at his first court appearance on the charges Friday.
Marc Branch, 39, was arrested last week on charges including human trafficking and prostituting a minor for allegedly luring young men and older teens to his home and then selling their sexual services to clients he solicited on the Internet.
He additionally is charged with two counts of aggravated sexual assault for allegedly twice drugging a teen who is at least 16 but younger than 18 and then allowing a client to sexually assault him.
Branch is jailed on $350,000 full cash bail, a $100,000 increase from the original bail, which was raised Monday by Superior Court Judge Bernard DeLury as part of a 24-hour bail review.
Defense attorney Jim Milita was hired by Branch’s family and represented him at the hearing. He said he would be requesting a probable-cause hearing to see what the state’s case is against his client.
“I don’t know anybody that’s under 18,” Branch was heard saying to Milita during the brief hearing before Superior Court Judge Michael Donio.
Branch allegedly fed some of his victims’ drug addictions, and also used money, friendship and even, at times, shelter to get the young men to his home.
“These are the most vulnerable victims in our society,” Deputy Attorney General Jim Ruberton said outside the courtroom. “Luring children and selling them for sex is horrendous and won’t be tolerated by our office. We will prosecute this case to the fullest extent of the law.”
The alleged victims include at least the one minor. The investigation is ongoing, Ruberton said, adding that he could not comment as to potential additional co-conspirators.
“Can you also see if you can get some discovery from these people?” Branch asked Milita during the hearing. “I don’t want to wait months for discovery.”
Some of that information would be available at the probable-cause hearing, Milita told him.
Such hearings usually take at least two weeks to schedule.
Branch has a pending drug case and was convicted of third-degree drug possession in December. He received no jail time for that.
Court records list him being born in Philadelphia, and standing 5-foot-9, weighing 170 pounds. His Facebook page lists his hometown as Cherry Hill and says he went to Cumberland County College.
Contact Lynda Cohen:
Follow Lynda Cohen on Twitter @LyndaCohen