Nearly 90 victims identified in human trafficking case

YOUNGSTOWN — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, Mahoning County Sheriff Jerry Greene, and Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains announced today that more than 100 charges – including human trafficking, child pornography, and sexual assault charges – have been filed in connection with an alleged sex trafficking ring in Mahoning County.

Prosecutors with the Mahoning County Prosecutor’s Office presented the case to a Mahoning County grand jury today, resulting in a total of 104 charges against five individuals. The charges stem from 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 alleging that Charles D. Krusac, 78, of Austintown, was creating child pornography involving at least one area juvenile. The investigation then expanded to uncover 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 both Hellman and Krusac in August, and following today’s grand jury presentation, both suspects are now facing additional charges.

Krusac was charged today 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, ape, one count; compelling prostitution, four counts; promoting prostitution, five counts.

Hellman was charged today 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 five counts. Lori Jackson, 43, of Warren, is charged with the two felony counts.

A fifth suspect, Elaine Hellman, 71, of Youngstown, was also charged today 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.

The charges filed today relate to a total of nine different adult and juvenile victims, however, the ongoing investigation has identified nearly 90 potential victims and additional 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. “Ohio continues to be a leader in the fight against human trafficking, and I commend our law enforcement team for working aggressively to break up this human trafficking ring and get help for the victims.”

“This is a result of cooperation among the Mahoning County Prosecutor’s Office, the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office, and all agencies that are assigned to the Ohio Attorney General’s organized crime task force,” said Prosecutor Paul Gains. “I agree with Attorney General DeWine that this is a horrific case, and this highlights the need for effective law enforcement against those involved in human trafficking. 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 suspect that 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.