More than 100 charges filed in Ohio human trafficking investigation

MAHONING COUNTY, Ohio — Authorities announced Thursday that more than 100 charges have been filed against five people in connection with an alleged sex trafficking ring in Mahoning County.

Those charges include human trafficking, child pornography and sexual assault charges. They are the result of an ongoing human trafficking investigation led by the Mahoning Valley Human Trafficking Task Force, which is part of Ohio Attorney General DeWine’s Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission.

The investigation began in July after authorities received a tip that claimed Charles D. Krusac, 78, of Austintown, was creating child pornography involving at least one juvenile in the area.

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

Charges were filed against Hellman and Krusac in August. Both suspects are now facing more charges after Thursday’s grand jury presentation.

Krusac was charged Thursday with the following 74 felony counts:

Trafficking in persons, nine counts
Illegal use of a minor in nudity oriented material or performance, nine counts
Pandering obscenity involving a minor, 46 counts
Rape, one count
Compelling prostitution, four counts
Promoting prostitution, five counts

Hellman was charged Thursday with the following 22 felony counts:

Trafficking in persons, eight counts
Rape, six counts
Compelling prostitution, two counts
Promoting prostitution, six counts

During the course of the investigation, task force members also gathered evidence against two other individuals with alleged involvement in the human trafficking ring.

James Jaster, 73, of Youngstown, is charged with the following five counts:

Compelling prostitution, three counts
Promoting prostitution, two counts

Lori Jackson, 43, of Warren, is charged with the following two felony counts:

Trafficking in persons, one count
Compelling prostitution, one count

Elaine Hellman, 71, of Youngstown, was also charged Thursday with one count of obstruction of justice. She’s accused of using her position as a police dispatcher to help her son, Ronald Hellman,  avoid contact with law enforcement.

Authorities say the charges filed Thursday are related to a total of nine different adult and juvenile victims; however, they say the ongoing investigation has identified 90 potential victims and more charges are possible.

“This is a truly horrific case. Our investigation found that many of these victims faced violence if they tried to resist or their addictions were exploited to force their compliance,” said Attorney General DeWine.

Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains added, “Let me make it perfectly clear that these young women and girls are truly victims, and I encourage anyone with knowledge of human trafficking to contact their local police. That is the only chance these young women have is by incarcerating these human traffickers.”

Authorities think there could be additional victims who have not yet been identified. Anyone with information related to this investigation is urged to contact the Mahoning Valley human trafficking tip-line at 330-480-4940.