Women allegedly forced into prostitution to pay off their drug debts will not face criminal charges, federal prosecutors announced Friday, the same day that documents charging alleged pimp Jeremy Mack with human trafficking were unsealed.
“The victims in this case are just that — victims of crime and will be treated accordingly,” Mike Tobin, spokesman for U.S. Attorney for Northern Ohio Steven Dettelbach, said in a statement. “They will not face criminal charges. Instead, we have been working and will continue to work to get them the help and services they need.”
Mack, 37, and Ashley Onysko, 23, were arrested on local charges when Elyria police raided a Tattersal Court house from which the pair was allegedly running their online prostitution ring. Federal human trafficking charges against Onysko were unsealed Thursday.
Mack, who has a lengthy criminal record, allegedly lured young women, including a 16-year-old girl, into his prostitution business by selling them heroin and cocaine and then when they couldn’t pay offering to trade sex for drugs.
Ultimately, the women’s drug debts became too much for them to pay and Mack used violence and intimidation to hold them at his house, forcing them to go to area hotels to have sexual relations with as many as 10 clients in a day, FBI Special Agent Kelly Liberti wrote in an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court.
Mack often was armed with a gun and carried a stun gun, the affidavit said.
Tobin wrote that it’s not uncommon for victims of human trafficking to have legal issues such as drug abuse. Those who target women for exploitation often use those vulnerabilities to control their victims, he wrote.
“When anyone is forced, through threats or coercion, to have sex against their will, it’s not prostitution,” Tobin wrote. “It’s rape, plain and simple.”
Onysko allegedly managed the women for Mack, posting photos of them on websites such as Backpage.com and Craigslist.com advertising their “escort services,” which cost $120 for 30 minutes or $220 for a full hour.
Onysko also tracked the money the prostitutes were earning, how long they spent with clients and kept a list of client names and appointments, Liberti wrote.
Tobin said he couldn’t say whether the men who hired the prostitutes controlled by Mack and Onysko will be charged in connection with the case, which remains under investigation.
The women told investigators that they gave any money they made to Mack, who applied it toward their drug debt. Because the women weren’t allowed to have any money, Mack provided them with clothes, makeup, condoms, cigarettes and drugs.
Onysko, who allegedly got a 30 percent cut of the money made by the prostitution business, told investigators that she carried heroin with her to give to the women before they met with clients so they would be able to perform.
Mindi Kuebler of the Human Trafficking Collaborative of Lorain County said that the women are receiving not only substance abuse treatment, but mental health counseling and other services to help them recover from their ordeal.
“Human trafficking, which we’re talking about here, is modern-day slavery,” Kuebler said.
Both Mack and Onysko are in federal custody and will appear in court next week for hearings on whether they should remain incarcerated while the case moves through the justice system.
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or firstname.lastname@example.org.