Law enforcement officials have potentially uncovered a sex trafficking ring involving approximately 80 women, which has been operational for around 15 years. Ronald Hellman, 50, is set to go on trial, and his bond is set at $100,000.

Hellman reportedly was planning on skipping town, upon discovering that his cohort Charles Krusak, 77, had been arrested for charges related to child pornography and prostitution. Hellman had apparently taken up to 80 females to Krusak’s home and was getting paid for it. An attorney said that they had confirmed that at least one of those females was underage.

However, they have expressed difficulties in reaching out and talking to the victims. Traffickers have many methods of coercion, and it’s quite common for them to successfully convince their victims to stay silent — it could be consequential, making them afraid of what might happen if they talk; it could be fostering hate and resentment toward law enforcement. Either way, getting victims to come forward can be challenging after they have been under the thumb of their captor.

Hellman used another tactic, common among traffickers worldwide — he targeted the vulnerable. He targeted children, prostitutes, and those who respond to threats and fear-based coercion. Reports also indicate that he also used drugs as a method of control. Traffickers like Hellman will use these tools to control every facet of a person’s life — at least, to the point where they get what they want out of them without getting caught.

This story was first reported by WKBN Channel 27, and their detailed initial report can be read here. The trial is still ongoing, and more details will likely present themselves as time goes on, especially now that this has national attention.

This is an apt example of how human trafficking can happen on a large scale in the United States, but also how it doesn’t always have to connect to shady criminal organizations. The world of human trafficking has these larger criminal elements, but it is also filled with opportunists who will jump at the chance to make money off of the vulnerable.

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Featured image: View east along Interstates 80 and 90 crossing from York Township, Steuben County, Indiana (on the Indiana Toll Road) to Northwest Township, Williams County, Ohio (on the Ohio Turnpike) | By Famartin [CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons