FRANKLIN -Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien and Attorney General Dave Yost announced today that the Franklin County Grand Jury has returned a RICO indictment against six individuals: Samuel Lee Edwards, age 49, Elbert Louis Joiner, Jr., age 51, Lamonte Anthony Rayford, age 55, Troy Eugene Whitfield, age 58, Shelby Lynn Freeze, age 26, and Rene Roderick Carter, age 58. The ring-leader Samuel Edwards, and his five associates have been indicted for various counts, some of which 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 related drug offenses.
A seventh adult connected to Edwards, Shanteeia Anntoniette Harvey, age 22 has also been indicted for Trafficking in Heroin and Trafficking in a Fentanyl-Related Compound. The indictment alleges that the Human Trafficking, Compelling/Promoting Prostitution and Drug Possession/Trafficking counts in the indictment involving multiple victims occurred over the time span of January 2016 through July 2019.
Prosecutor Ron O’Brien stated, “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.”
The offenses occurred at numerous homes and hotels in central Ohio.
“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 stated. O’Brien commended the Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force and the Columbus Police for their thorough investigation of this case. “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,” Yost said. Arraignment for Samuel Edwards is set for Friday, November 22nd, 2019 at 1:30 pm in courtroom 2B, at 345 S. High Street in downtown Columbus.