WELLSTON — In late November, a Columbus woman labeled as an associate in a human-trafficking ring was arrested in Wellston.
Shelby Lynn Freeze, 26, of Columbus, was arrested in the City of Wellston around 2:40 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 21.
Wellston Police Chief John A. Robinson told The Courier that his department was alerted by the Jackson County Sheriff's Office (JCSO) of a warrant for Freeze. She had been indicted by the Franklin County Grand Jury recently.
Robinson said that his department received an anonymous tip that led officers to Freeze leaving the Piggly Wiggly parking lot.
Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien released on Nov. 19, that six adults, Freeze along with Samuel Lee Edwards, 49; Elbert Louis Joiner, Jr., 51; Lamonte Anthony Rayford, 55' Troy Eugene Whitfield, 58; and Rene Roderick Carter, 58; were indicted.
“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," stated O’Brien.
The alleged ring-leader, Samuel Edwards, and his five reported associates were indicted for various counts, some of which included 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.
O’Brien added that a seventh adult connected to Edwards, Shanteeia Anntoniette Harvey, 22, was also 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. 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," explained O’Brien. "The associates assisted Edwards with recruiting, transporting, and supervising the females who engaged in prostitution, as well as selling narcotics out of various locations."
O’Brien said that the victims were reportedly threatened and assaulted if they did not comply with the demands.