An Avon Lake woman was sentenced Wednesday to 2½ years in federal prison for her role in helping run an online prostitution ring out of an Elyria rental property.
Ashley Onysko, 24, pleaded guilty last year in U.S. District Court to conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking and drug trafficking as part of an agreement with federal prosecutors.
The leader of the operation, 38-year-old Jeremy Mack, was convicted following a jury trial earlier this year and is due in court today for his sentencing hearing.
According to prosecutors, Mack used fear and violence to control a group of drug-addicted young women, including a 16-year-old girl, whose sexual services were offered for rent on websites such as Backpage.com.
The FBI and Elyria police determined that Mack lured his victims into his orbit with access to drugs such as heroin and cocaine. He would trade them sex for drugs and then force them to sell their bodies when their drug debts to him became too high.
In court documents filed before Onysko’s sentencing, her lawyer, Roger Synenberg, wrote that his client was pulled into Mack’s scheme in a similar fashion.
“Ashley’s life quickly spun out of control after meeting Mack” in the fall of 2012, Synenberg wrote.
The pair began using cocaine together and Onysko moved out of her mother’s house and into a single hotel room with Mack, his son, Toby Lewis, and his niece, he wrote. Onysko also left her job at a fast-food restaurant and began using more cocaine.
Synenberg wrote that when she fell behind on her car payments, Onysko had to borrow money to keep the vehicle, beginning a cycle of debt that grew as she continued to use the cocaine Mack offered her.
In fear of Mack, who had smacked her in the face with stacks of money and whom she had seen physically attack other women, Onysko agreed to Mack’s suggestion she begin performing sex acts for money, Synenberg wrote. He also noted that Mack had threatened Onysko’s family.
Onysko never received any of the money generated by her prostitution, her lawyer wrote. Instead, Mack took the money to pay down her drug debt.
“Since Ashley’s cocaine use increased, she continued to incur a debt to Mack and always owed him money,” Synenberg wrote.
In January 2013, Mack wanted to move out of the hotel and had Onysko rent out a Tattersall Court house, where Mack relocated his operation.
By March 2013, Onysko had moved into the house and Mack had her stop prostituting herself and instead had her help him run his business.
According to prosecutors, Onysko was responsible for posting online advertisements for the other girls who had fallen under his control. She also drove the women to appointments and kept a ledger of debts the women needed to work off and how much money they had made for Mack.
After her arrest in April 2013, Onysko told investigators that she carried drugs with her so she could give them to the women before they met with clients so they would be able to perform.
In a series of letters and other documents sent to The Chronicle-Telegram, Mack has insisted that he is innocent of the crimes he was ultimately convicted of and that he hadn’t victimized the women he was accused of forcing into prostitution.