Human trafficking ring exposed

YOUNGSTOWN — Hundreds of charges are being filed in an ongoing human trafficking investigation undertaken by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and Mahoning County.

Attorney General Mike DeWine, Mahoning County Sheriff Jerry Greene and Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains said in a press release issued Thursday through DeWine’s office that more than 100 charges — including human trafficking, child pornography and sexual assault — have been filed in connection with an alleged sex trafficking ring in Mahoning County.

They said the case was presented Thursday to the Mahoning County grand jury by the Mahoning County Prosecutor’s office, resulting in a total of 104 charges against five people.

The investigation led by the Mahoning Valley Human Trafficking Task Force began in July after authorities received a tip alleging that Charles D. Krusac, 78, of Austintown, was creating child pornography involving at least one area juvenile, according to the press release.

The trafficking task force is part of DeWine’s Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission.

As the investigation continued, authorities uncovered a large-scale human trafficking ring in which Ronald D. Hellman, 51, of Youngstown, is accused of forcing multiple women and children to engage in sexual conduct with himself, Krusac and others, the release stated.

It also said charges were filed against both Hellman and Krusac in August, and they are facing additional charges as a result of the grand jury presentation.

On Thursday, Krusac was charged with 74 felony counts — nine counts of trafficking in persons, nine counts of illegal use of a minor in nudity oriented material or performance, 46 counts of pandering obscenity involving a minor, one count of rape, four counts of compelling prostitution and five counts of promoting prostitution.

Hellman was charged with 22 felony counts — eight counts of trafficking in persons, six counts of rape, two counts of compelling prostitution and six counts of promoting prostitution.

Task force members also gathered evidence against two other people with alleged involvement in the human trafficking ring during the course of the investigation, the release stated.

They are James Jaster, 73, of Youngstown, who is charged with three counts of compelling prostitution and two counts of promoting prostitution; Lori Jackson, 43, of Warren, who is charged with one count of trafficking in persons and one count of compelling prostitution. The charges are all felonies.

The release also said that a fifth suspect, Elaine Hellman, 71, of Youngstown, was also charged with one count of obstruction of justice for allegedly using her position as a police dispatcher to help Ronald Hellman, her son, avoid contact with law enforcement.

Officials said the charges filed Thursday relate to a total of nine different adult and juvenile victims, although the ongoing investigation has identified nearly 90 potential victims and additional charges are possible.

Anyone with information related to this investigation is urged to contact the Mahoning Valley Human Trafficking Tip Line at 330-480-4940.

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