Jose Torres is a 42-year-old New Jersey man who has been arrested by federal authorities on charges that accuse him of luring commercial sex workers to travel to him and then using violence, force and threats against them. Torres was arrested on February 14, 2020, but sex workers tell Heavy he has been known as a “predator” in their community for several years. Sex workers dubbed him “Joey the Player,” among other nicknames, and shared his photo, social media profiles, phone numbers, emails and other information through informal whisper networks that the community uses to keep each other safe.
Torres, who works as a managing director at an accounting firm, was arrested on Valentine’s Day in Massachusetts and charged with two counts of coercion and enticement, according to a press release from federal prosecutors. The charges each carry a potential sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison. Torres’ attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Heavy.
“From May 2015 to October 2019, Torres persuaded, induced and enticed commercial sex workers to travel from various out of state locations, including Canada and New York, in order to engage in prostitution. Torres lured commercial sex workers to New Jersey with promises of large payments. When the commercial sex workers asked for payment, Torres became aggressive, often assaulting and raping them. Torres never paid the sex workers,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey said in the press release.
Here’s what you need to know about Jose Torres, aka Joey the Player:
1. Jose Torres Promised $20,000 to $30,000 to a Woman, Told Her He Was a Cop When She Threatened to Leave Because He Didn’t Pay Her & Then Roughly Raped Her, Slapped Her in the Face & Choked Her, the FBI Says
The case against Jose Torres is based on two victims who came forward with accusations against him, according to the criminal complaint filed by prosecutors, which includes an affidavit from FBI Special Agent Michael Scimeca. He wrote that Torres would lure female commercial sex workers from escort service websites to travel out of state or out of their country to come to the Middlesex County, New Jersey, area and surrounding areas, to engage in prostitution.
Scimeca wrote, “In each instance, Torres lures a female commercial sex worker to New Jersey with promises of large sums of payment. In each instance, when the commercial sex worker asked for payment, Torres becomes aggressive, often assaulting and raping her. Moreover, Torres never pays them for services.”
According to Scimeca, law enforcement identified and located several of Torres’ victims. In an October 2019 incident, Torres contacted a sex worker from Canada through a phone call and said he had seen her number on an advertisement on a website. He said he was willing to pay her $20,000 to $30,000 per month to fly to the U.S. to be his private escort, according to the FBI. He told the woman she would come to the U.S. at least twice a month.
“While Torres offered to purchase Victim-2’s flight, Victim-2 opted to do it herself in order to not disclose her personal information and passport number,” Scimeca wrote. She flew from Canada to Newark, New Jersey, and was met by Torres at the airport, according to court documents. He then drove her to a hotel.
“Once they got to the hotel room, Victim-2 asked for payment and Torres became aggressive,” Scimeca wrote. “When Victim-2 threatened to leave, Torres told her he was a police officer. Scared of the possible consequences of getting turned in, Victim-2 remained in the room and Torres then forced her to engage in rough sexual intercourse, which included slapping her in the face, choking her and calling her derogatory names.”
In another case, from May 2015, Torres sent a text message to a sex worker and asked her to spend the night with him. He had found her on the now-shuttered Backpage.com. Her ad on the website indicated she was visiting New York City.
Scimeca wrote, “Torres and Victim-1 agreed to meet and Torres instructed Victim-1 to take a taxi from New York City to a specific location in New Jersey. Once at the location, Victim-1 got into Torres’ vehicle and he drove her to a house located in Middlesex County. Once inside, Victim-1 asked for payment and Torres pretended to conduct a money transfer on his laptop. Subsequently, Torres and Victim-1 engaged in sexual activity.”
According to the FBI, the victim became uncomfortable about an hour later because of Torres’ aggressive behavior and asked to leave. “Torres refused and continued to force Victim-1 to perform unwanted sexual activity, including slapping Victim-1 in the face and choking her. Victim-1 was fearful, and at times complied with Torres’ requests for her safety. The following morning, Victim-1 took a taxi back to New York and Torres never paid Victim-1,” Scimeca wrote.
The full criminal complaint can be read here.
2. Torres Has Been Known to Those in the Sex Worker Community for More Than a Decade, Sex Workers Tell Heavy & the Investigation Appears to Be Ongoing
The federal case spans the years of 2015 to 2019, but sex workers have told Heavy, and have posted on social media, that Jose Torres was preying on those in their community for more than a decade, and had continued to try to hire sex workers as recently as January at an adult film event in Las Vegas.
Posts on social media and websites that those in the sex worker community use to warn about predators have mentioned Jose Torres, and his nickname, Joey the Player since at least 2016, calling him a “serial rapist.” In July 2019, a sex worker posted on The Johns Report that Joey the Player was being investigated and offered contact information for a law firm that was working pro bono with his victims:
There has been a predator in NYC and New Jersey that has been targeting sex workers for many years named Joey (Jose) Torres. Many of you have been contacted by him and already know the danger. He promises large amounts of money but doesn’t pay, instead he assaults & rapes sex workers. He has been able to continue this abuse for many years because we aren’t able to report violence against us or share information with each other. There was an incident in Las Vegas a few weeks ago and he has recently tried to book an appointment in Manhattan so the threat is ongoing. Last week a brave sex worker contacted a prestigious New York City based attorney who has offered to consult with the many victims and survivors of “Joey The Player” and find out if there is potential to bring the evidence to a federal prosecutor. Joey could face serious FEDERAL charges if enough of his victims and survivors come forward.
Torres used multiple numbers and email addresses to contact sex workers, according to screenshots of his exchanges with sex workers that have been posted online. In some of his messages, he claimed to be connected to a talent agency or to the adult film industry. He often used names like Jose, Joey, John, and other names that start with J. A website lists dozens of accusations against him. Another lists dozens of phone numbers, aliases and email addresses he used.
Sex workers have been encouraged to come forward about their experiences with Torres and the federal investigation appears to be ongoing. In court documents, FBI Special Agent Scimeca wrote, “Law enforcement learned that Torres has victimized other commercial sex workers in a similar fashion. Law enforcement recently intercepted a victim in a different district.” It is not clear if Torres will be facing additional charges in other federal districts or in state court in New Jersey or elsewhere.
3. Jose Torres Attended Rutgers University & Works in a Top Position at New Jersey Accounting Firm
Jose Torres graduated from Rutgers University and is a certified public accountant, according to a now-deleted profile on his company’s website. He was listed on the website as a managing director, a position he has held since at least 2019.
His bio on the website states, “Jose has over 18 years of professional experience advising clients on business and accounting issues, assisting clients in improving their accounting operations and providing accounting support. Jose has served as the CFO and Controller for several organizations and has extensive experience in SOX compliance, audit readiness, SEC Reporting, SEC filings, US GAAP and IFRS, with a focus on serving public and private companies. Jose has extensive international accounting experience and has traveled in the United States and worldwide to serve client needs. Jose Torres is a certified public accountant.”
The website adds that in prior jobs, “Jose held a broad range of senior-level business consulting positions. His responsibilities were focused on business development, leading teams, delivering on client advisory services and working on complex accounting transactions.”
Torres’ company did not immediately respond to a request for comment about him from Heavy and it is not clear if he is still employed there. His profile was removed from the New Jersey accounting firm’s website after his arrest.
4. Sex Workers Have Celebrated Torres’ Arrest, but Have Also Said That Federal Regulations & Crackdowns on Their Industry Made It Harder for Providers to Know About the Danger They Say Torres Posed
Jose Torres’ arrest has been celebrated on social media by sex workers who are happy to finally see “Joey the Player” behind bars. One sex worker wrote on Twitter, “#joeytheplayer has been arrested! Finally. Although this is a small victory, the larger message needs to be, we need decriminalization now! Only rights can stop the wrongs!”
The New Jersey Red Umbrella Alliance, which promotes the needs and rights of sex workers in that state and was one of the key advocates for Torres’ victims and for pressuring an investigation into him, wrote on Twitter, “Thank you to all the providers who made it possible with their bravery & actually report him. I know first hand how difficult that is. This is only the beginning we won’t stop until he is behind bars w/a guilty verdict.”
Another sex worker wrote on Twitter, “Joey the Player aka Joey the Rapist, a man so vile that even as a niche-market sw’r on the west coast of Canada I’ve heard of him, is finally facing some consequences.”
But sex workers have also used the case as an example of a situation that they say is making their industry more dangerous. Sex workers say that federal laws like FOSTA and SOSTA, which were enacted with the supposed goal of stopping sex trafficking, have instead created dangerous conditions. Sex workers told Heavy that the laws led to the shutdown of websites like The Erotic Review (TER), where sex workers could share their experiences with clients.
According to Ars Technica, SESTA, or the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, made it “easier to prosecute websites that host third-party content that promotes or facilitates prostitution, even in cases when the sex workers aren’t victims of trafficking,” when it was signed into law by President Trump.
“As a result of this new law, TER has made the difficult decision to block access to the website from the United States until such time as the courts have enjoined enforcement of the law, the law has been repealed or amended, or TER has found a way to sufficiently address any legal concerns created by the new law,” the website said in 2018 when it shut down.
Survivors Against SESTA issued a statement at the time saying, “Shutting down websites that sex workers use to work indoors and screen clients more safely does not stop traffickers. To the contrary, this only drives sex workers, including those who are trafficked, to find clients on the street where they face higher rates of violence, HIV, Hepatitis C and sexually transmitted infections, and exploitation.”
In explaining why Torres’ arrest is significant, a sex worker wrote on Twitter, they “did what we could to warn each other about him, but his numerous victims were denied justice or recourse under criminalization. We cannot report crimes against us to the police for fear of arrest and often deportation. PREDATORS KNOW THIS and they use it to prey on sex workers. The feeling of hopelessness knowing that someone hurt you in a way you might never recover from but you can’t really do shit about it is soul crushing.”
The Twitter user added, “His many victims were made to watch helplessly as he operated with impunity for years, terrorizing sex workers across the country. This is what criminalization does to our community. I am hoping with every ounce of my being that these charges stick and Joey is punished for his crimes. A lot of people feel as if this is the start of something big for us. I don’t want to get too excited just yet, but I do feel like a weight has been lifted and I am eager to continue the fight so that no sex worker ever again is victimized this way.”
5. Jose Torres Remains in Custody Awaiting a Court Appearance in Newark, New Jersey, Federal Court
Jose Torres was arrested on February 14, 2020, and made his first court appearance in Massachusetts federal court on February 18 before Magistrate Judge M. Page Kelley, according to online records. Federal prosecutors asked for detention after presenting the charges against Torres, records show. Torres waived his right to have hearings held in Massachusetts, stating he wanted to have them in New Jersey, according to court records.
According to prosecutors, “The coercion and enticement charges each carries a maximum term of 20 years’ imprisonment and a potential $250,000 fine.”
Torres was remanded into the custody of the U.S. Marshal’s Service to be transferred to New Jersey. It is not yet clear when Torres will be brought back to his home state. When he is brought there, he will make his first appearance in New Jersey federal court in Newark.
Torres is being represented by Boston attorney Joseph B. Simons of the Simons Law Office. Simons did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Torres from Heavy. It is not clear if Simons will continue to represent Torres when his case is transferred to New Jersey and it is also not known if he has hired another attorney to represent him there.
“The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Emma Spiro of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Violent Crimes Unit in Newark,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office for New Jersey said. “U.S. Attorney (Craig) Carpenito credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Gregory W. Ehrie in Newark; special agents of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Brian Michael; the Middlesex County, New Jersey, Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Acting Prosecutor Christopher L. C. Kuberiet; and the Peabody, Massachusetts, Police Department, under the direction of Chief Thomas Griffin, with the investigation leading to the charges.”