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Ashland Couple convicted of labor trafficking conspiracy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 7, 2014

A federal jury convicted an Ashland couple of engaging in a labor trafficking conspiracy and other crimes related to them holding woman with cognitive disabilities and her child against their will and forcing the woman to perform manual labor for them, said Steven M. Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, and Stephen D. Anthony, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Cleveland office.

Jordie L. Callahan, 27 and Jessica L. Hunt, 32, were convicted following a three-week trial before U.S. District Judge Benita Y. Pearson. Callahan and Hunt were both convicted on one count each of conspiracy to violate laws; forced labor and acquiring a controlled substance by deception.

They are scheduled to be sentenced in July.

“These defendants inflicted unspeakable cruelty upon this mother and her child,” said Steven M. Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio. “This case provides another stark reminder that human trafficking takes place all around us, and that we need to be better neighbors to one another.”

“We are pleased with the guilty verdict delivered today for the incomprehensible treatment and involuntary servitude of another human being and her small child,” Anthony said. “The FBI will continue to partner with other law enforcement agencies to aggressively investigate and bring to justice those individuals that force others into unlawful labor or sex practices.”

Dezerah L. McGuire (formerly Silsby), 32, and Daniel J. Brown, 34, both of Ashland, previously pleaded guilty to crimes related to the conspiracy. Both are scheduled to be sentenced later this month.

Callahan and Hunt used a combination of violence, threats, sexual assaults, humiliation, deprivation and monitoring to establish and continue a pattern of domination and control over their victims, identified only as S.E. and B.E., according to the court documents and trial testimony.

Their 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 B.E. and S.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, according to the court documents and trial testimony.

According to court documents and trail testimony:

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.

The conspiracy between Callahan, Hunt, McGuire 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 and intentionally causing painful injuries to S.E. so they could use the narcotic pain medications she was prescribed to satisfy their personal drug craving.

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.

In August 2011, McGuire, 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. Callahan, Hunt and McGuire then forced S.E. to give them the narcotic pain pills and prescription for narcotic pain pills she obtained after being treated at the emergency room.

In December 2011, Callahan and Hunt injured S.E.’s back with such force that she needed medical treatment. Again, Callahan and Hunt forced S.E. to give them the narcotic pain pills and prescription for narcotic pain pills she obtained after being treated.

In March 2012, Callahan kicked S.E. in the hip with such force that she needed medical treatment. Callahan and Hunt forced S.E. to give them the narcotic pain pills and prescription for narcotic pain pills she obtained after being treated.

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 ordered by the conspirators.

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 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.

Callahan and Hunt also 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 McGuire to find S.E. and B.E. and bring them back to the apartment. Brown and McGuire lured S.E. and B.E. into their vehicle by promising to take them to Dairy Queen, only to deposit them afterwards back at 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.

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.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Chelsea Rice and Thomas E. Getz following an investigation by the FBI and Ashland Police Department, with assistance from the Ashland County Prosecutor’s Office.

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