A five-count indictment was filed charging three people from Ashland, Ohio, with engaging in a labor trafficking conspiracy and related crimes for holding a woman with cognitive disabilities and her child against their will and forcing the woman to perform manual labor for them, law enforcement officials said today.
According to the indictment, Jordie L. Callahan, 26, Jessica L. Hunt, 31, and Dezerah L. Silsby, 21, used a combination of violence, threats, sexual assaults, humiliation and monitoring to establish and continue a pattern of domination and control over their victims, identified only as S.E. and her child B.E. A fourth person, Daniel K. Brown, 33, of Ashland, was charged in a criminal information filed today with one count of conspiracy.
The conspiracy between Callahan, Hunt, Silsby and Brown took place between August 2010 and October 2012. The object of the conspiracy included holding S.E. in a condition of forced labor and involuntary servitude; obtaining S.E.’s and B.E.’s public assistance benefits; and intentionally causing painful injuries to S.E. so they could use the narcotic pain medications she was prescribed.
According to court documents, the defendants’ tactics included beating S.E., threats of beatings to S.E. and B.E., taunting and threatening the victims with pit bulls and snakes, causing the victims to sleep in unsafe and unsanitary conditions, restricting S.E. and B.E.’s access to the bathroom, preventing them from eating regular and suitable meals and forcing S.E. to eat dog food and crawl on the floor while wearing a dog collar.
Callahan and Hunt recruited S.E. and B.E. to live with them in their two-bedroom apartment in Ashland, knowing that S.E. has a cognitive disability and that S.E. and B.E. received monthly public assistance payments.
According to the indictment, in or around September 2010, Callahan and Hunt forced S.E. to have her and B.E.’s public assistance benefits issued on a debit card rather than paper check. They then took control of the card, forced S.E. to give them the PIN and used the card for their own benefit and the benefit of their family and friends.
On multiple occasions between August 2010 and October 2012, Callahan and Hunt threatened S.E. and B.E. with serious physical harm, including death, if S.E. did not clean up the apartment, care for their numerous pit bull dogs, snakes and other reptiles, purchase items at the store and perform other labor and services. On one occasion, Callahan pointed a firearm at S.E.’s head and threatened to kill her if she did not perform the labor and services he and other conspirators commanded. Callahan also forced S.E. on multiple occasions to engage in sex acts with him and threatened that he and Hunt would kill S.E. if she told anyone about the forced sexual acts .
In August 2011, Silsby, at the direction of Callahan and Hunt, smashed S.E.’s hand with a rock with such force that S.E. needed to go to the hospital emergency room. In December 2011, Callahan and Hunt injured S.E.’s back with such force that she needed medical treatment. In March 2012, Callahan kicked S.E. in the hip with such force that she needed medical treatment. After each incident, Callahan and Hunt forced S.E. to give them the narcotic pain pills and prescriptions for the medication as stated in the indictment.
Callahan and Hunt used a video camera to monitor S.E. and B.E.’s activities and conversations in the apartment. They often forced S.E. to walk to the store to buy groceries, cigarettes, dog food and other items for Callahan, Hunt and Hunt’s four sons and to pay for these purchases with her public assistance card. They allotted S.E. only a brief time period to complete the shopping and warned her that she was not allowed to speak with anyone while she was out. They frequently required B.E. to remain with them at the apartment while S.E. was out and threatened physical harm to B.E. and S.E. if S.E. broke any of their rules.
The indictment also states that Callahan and Hunt threatened to contact Ashland County Job and Family Services and have B.E. taken away if S.E. purchased any items at the store other than those they ordered or if she told anyone about their unlawful conduct.
In June 2011, after S.E. and B.E. had attempted to flee the apartment, Callahan and Hunt ordered Brown and Silsby to find S.E. and B.E. and bring them back to the apartment. Brown and Silsby lured S.E. and B.E. into their vehicle by promising to take them to Dairy Queen, only to drive them afterwards back to the apartment.
On multiple occasions, Callahan and Brown locked S.E. and B.E. in a room with a window that was nailed shut and a door that had been locked from the outside according to court documents.
As stated in the indictment, in October 2011, Callahan and Hunt forced S.E. to hit her child while they recorded a video, and threatened to inflict much greater physical harm on both S.E. and B.E. if S.E. did not comply. One month later, Callahan and Hunt again forced S.E. to strike B.E. while they captured a video recording of the staged incident on Callahan’s cell phone. Callahan and Hunt repeatedly threatened have B.E. taken away by showing the videos to authorities in order to secure S.E.’s compliance to the conspirators’ commands.
Callahan, Hunt and Silsby face one count each of the following: conspiracy; forced labor; theft of government benefits; and acquiring a controlled substance by deception. Callahan and Hunt face an additional charge of tampering with a witness.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Chelsea Rice and Thomas E. Getz and Trial Attorney Victor Boutros of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit, following an investigation by the FBI and Ashland Police Department, with assistance from the Ashland County Prosecutor’s Office.
An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.