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Charges filed in human trafficking investigation

YOUNGSTOWN — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, Mahoning County Sheriff Jerry Greene, and Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains announced Thursday 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 Thursday’s grand jury presentation, both suspects are now facing additional charges.

Krusac was charged with 74 felony counts and Hellman was charged with 22 felony 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, and Lori Jackson, 43, of Warren, were also charged.

A fifth suspect, Elaine Hellman, 71, of Youngstown, was also charged 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,” DeWine said. “Our investigation found that many of these victims faced violence if they tried to resist or their addictions were exploited to force their compliance. 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.”