HARRISBURG, Pa. (CBS) — A self-styled minister who claimed to run a Pennsylvania transitional housing program held at least five drug addicts against their will, forcing them to steal expensive video-game systems and provide sex in exchange for crack cocaine and heroin, a prosecutor said Friday.
Edward Edmonds, 31, of Harrisburg, and a second man were charged with five counts of involuntary servitude after a seven-month investigation into Edmonds’ organization, the Beyond Your Limits Ministries Church in Harrisburg.
“It was no church. There was never any praying,” Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico said. “Instead, what occurred at that location was really a house of horrors for these addicts.”
Edmonds and Daerell Holmes, 20, also of Harrisburg, forced addicts who lived at the Beyond Your Limits row house to commit retail theft by stealing Xbox and PlayStation gaming systems, which they’d turn around and sell, authorities said.
Female victims were forced to trade sex for drugs, and a 16-year-old was videotaped in a sex act, prompting a child pornography charge against Edmonds, Marsico said.
Victims who couldn’t pay their drug debts were beaten with a belt or shot with a BB gun, primarily in the legs and knees, he said. Edmonds also confiscated driver’s licenses and other forms of ID and would not return them until the victims came back with stolen merchandise, the prosecutor said.
Edmonds and Holmes were charged under Pennsylvania’s anti-human trafficking law. They were arraigned Thursday night and sent to jail on $250,000 bail each. Neither had an attorney who could comment on their behalf.
Edmonds maintained accounts on Facebook and LinkedIn, promoting himself as an ordained minister, a youth and young adult chaplain, a “certified technology solutions specialist” and a “spiritual social worker.”
He wrote that he wanted to “open transitional housing programs throughout the United States of America.”
Prosecutors believe there are more victims and asked for the public’s help in locating them.
(Copyright 2017 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)