COLUMBUS (WCMH) — A Franklin County grand jury has indicted six people in connection with human trafficking charges, according to the county prosecutor.

The six people charged are:

  • 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

Some of the charges filed against the six 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 adult connected to Edwards, Shanteeia Anntoniette Harvey, 22, has also been indicted for Trafficking in Heroin and Trafficking in a Fentanyl-Related Compound.

The indictment alleges the group compelled multiple victims to engage in prostitution from Jan. 2016 through July 2019, and occurred at numbers homes and hotels in central Ohio.

“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,” prosecutor Ron O’Brien said.

According to O’Brien, Edwards was 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,” he said.

The Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force and the Columbus Police investigated the 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,” Attorney General Dave Yost said.

Edwards is set to be arraigned Friday at 1:30 p.m.