A man convicted of human trafficking on Monday is the first ever in Cuyahoga County, according to the prosecutor’s office.
ELYRIA, Ohio - A Lorain County couple is accused of forcing a 16-year-old girl and a 19-year-old woman to have sex for money.
Jeremy Mack, 37, of Elyria, and Ashley Onysko, 23, of Avon Lake, were charged with two counts of sex trafficking in a criminal complaint unsealed Friday in U.S. District Court, said Stephen D. Anthony, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Cleveland office, and Steven M. Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.
"These defendants are accused of preying on teens in our community," Dettelbach said. "We will work to get help for the victims and bring the accused to justice."
Mack and Onysko were arrested April 9 in Elyria. Onysko told investigators that she worked for Mack facilitating meetings for sex between girls and men. She posted advertisements on backpage.com and craigslist.com, according to an affidavit filed in the case.
The 19-year-old and was forced to have sex for money in order to pay off a drug debt to Mack, officials said. She said several girls lived at 8 Tattersal Court and were forced by Mack to prostitute themselves in order to pay off their drug debts to him, according to the affidavit.
She began seeing several men a day. Mack or Onysko drove her to the appointments but she had to turn all the money over directly to Mack, according to the affidavit.
She witnessed him push, hit and choke other girls and said Mack often carried a handgun and stun gun, according to the affidavit.
The 16-year-old met Mack through Mack's son in March 2013. She noticed that the other girls were afraid of Mack and didn't seem allowed to leave the house except to meet clients, according to the affidavit.
On March 29, Mack instructed her to get fixed up and instructed other girls to take photos of her for backpage.com. She said she didn't want to be a prostitute but did so because Mack was "a guy with a gun who knew where I lived," according to the affidavit.
Onysko soon received a call for an appointment with the 16-year-old. Onysko arranged the meeting and provided her with condoms. She gave all the money to Mack. She left the house on Tattersal after her parents discovered her photographs on backpage.com, according to the affidavit.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys following an investigation by the FBI and Elyria Police Department.
An Ohio man has been sentenced to 20 years in prison in Maryland on human trafficking and prostitution charges.
Experts in the U.S. increasingly are applying the label "human trafficking" to homegrown prostitution. Lawmakers, police and prosecutors are starting to shift their view on this, too.