The Franklin county prosecutor has confirmed that a grand jury has indicted six people in connection with human trafficking charges. The six people charged are as follows:
- Samuel Lee Edwards, 49
- Elbert Louis Joiner Jr., 51
- Lamonte Anthony Rayford, 55
- Troy Eugene Whitfield, 58
- Shelby Lynn Freeze, 26
- Rene Roderick Carter, 58
The Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force and the Columbus Police investigated the group and the charges filed against them vary but include engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, trafficking in persons – commercial sex acts, compelling and promoting prostitution, kidnapping, possession and trafficking of a fentanyl-related compound, and other drug-related offenses.
A seventh person who was found to be connected to Edwards, Shanteeia Anntoniette Harvey, 22, has also been indicted for Trafficking in Heroin and Trafficking in a Fentanyl-Related Compound.
The indictment explains that this group coerced multiple victims to engage in prostitution between January 2016 and July 2019.
Prosecutor Ron O’Brien has this to say, “the ring-leader of this enterprise and his associates recruited and exploited vulnerable women to work for them as prostitutes in order to personally benefit financially.”
He also declares Edwards as the ringleader of the group.
“Edwards and his associates used narcotics as a way to manipulate and control their victims. The associates assisted Edwards with recruiting, transporting, and supervising the females who engaged in prostitution, as well as selling narcotics out of various locations. The victims were threatened and assaulted if they did not comply with the demands of the enterprise,” O’Brien said.
“Human trafficking is modern-day slavery, only with drugs instead of chains. It’s coercive and subjugating – it’s slavery. Every arrest made by our Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force shines a light on this darkness, freeing victims from bondage,” Attorney General Dave Yost said.
Edwards will be arraigned Friday at 1:30 p.m.