Ocala, FL — A man has been proclaimed guilty by a jury of his peers and sentenced to 30 years for human trafficking. Ocala, a town of approximately 57,000 people, lies in the central Florida in Marion county. Marion County Detective Zackary Hughes said that, “This was the fourth case of human trafficking case in Marion county’s history, and the first one to ever go in front of a jury.”

Ryan Poole (pictured above) began a romantic relationship with the victim during a vulnerable time in her life. They met online, and everything seemed to be going well — she said he was refreshing and “I felt very comfortable.” She said that he, “always wanted to talk about me and my life.”

After a short period of gaining her trust, there came a day when a switch was flipped. He put a sawed-off shotgun in her face and threatened her life, the life of her son and other loved ones. At that point, he made her new purpose in life clear: to make him money.

Poole then instructed her to give him money from her regular job, but also to become a stripper, to act online on a webcam site, and to become a prostitute. All of the money she earned from any of these was strictly monitored — he had a near fool-proof system of ensuring that her earnings went right into his pocket. She was sold for prostitution countless times in five counties.

She couldn’t go to the authorities, for fear that something would happen to those that she loved — particularly her son. In one instance he FaceTimed her from her son’s school. He had her on a parental monitoring/tracking app at all times, and if she were to turn it off or deviate from his strict system in any way, the punishments were severe.

She was losing significant weight from the stress and a forced “diet” he had her on which included the use of cocaine.

SOFREP was present at the trial, and at one point she was concerned whether or not he would steal some of her things from her apartment (he had in the past). As attorneys must when they’re attempting to draw out every detail of the case, the prosecution asked her, “What makes you think he would take any of your stuff?”

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“Because he had taken me,” she said, trying to stifle her tears. She seemed to feel as if her life, along with her possessions, was one of the many things Poole had taken for himself, to use for his own profits in whatever way he saw fit.

He forced her to call him “daddy.” He sat in her apartment at a chair he called his “chair of power” and made her crawl to him, take off his shoes and socks and suck on his toes, among other things. He had her tattoo his initials in her pelvic region, which she called “a branding.” He pawned many of her things; he took control of her storage unit, then ceased payments causing her to lose timeless family items.

In all of this she felt trapped, as long as he was a threat to her and her son’s lives.

Eventually a time came when he pushed too far. He had beaten and raped her after she disobeyed him and turned off the parental monitoring (tracking) system on her phone. Her son was safe at her ex-husbands house, and she went to him before going to the authorities. She took pictures of the injuries she sustained at Poole’s hands and went to the Sheriff’s department.

Ryan Poole would be sentenced to 30 years in prison for his crimes. What was described here was just a brief overview.

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SOFREP will continue to delve into this particular case as an example of how human trafficking is not just limited to major cities or foreign countries. It is alive in well, even in the most rural parts of the United States. It was alive in Ocala, FL, and SOFREP will explore this case — step by step — and its implications toward human trafficking in smaller towns.

Featured image courtesy of Marion County Jail.