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Akron couple charged with human trafficking

Prostitution, drugs also included in indictment of Darren Townsend and Pearl Coffey

Staff Report Published: September 24, 2017 4:00 AM
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Two Akron residents are facing felony criminal charges for human trafficking, prostitution and drugs following their indictment by a Summit County grand jury, authorities announced.

It is the first time an Ohio law against trafficking in persons, passed in 2011, has been used in Summit County, Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh's office said.

Walsh on Friday announced that a Summit County grand jury has indicted Darren Townsend, 37, of 812 Nome Ave., and Pearl Coffey, 34, of 1275 Herman Ave., on charges of human trafficking.

According to the prosecutor's office, the grand jury indicted both on the following charges:

Two counts of trafficking in persons, both first-degree felonies,

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six counts of compelling prostitution, including one second-degree felony and five third-degree felonies; and

three counts of promoting prostitution, all fourth-degree felonies.

Townsend was also charged with corrupting another with drugs, a second-degree felony, while Coffey was charged with corrupting another with drugs, a fourth-degree felony, and possession of marijuana, a fifth-degree felony. Both are scheduled to be arraigned at 11 a.m. Monday, Sept. 25, in Common Pleas Judge Amy Corrigall-Jones' courtroom.

According to their indictments, between Aug. 1, 2016, and February of this year, Coffey and Townsend allegedly forced at least one juvenile victim into sexual activity, sexual performance for hire or involuntary servitude. The victim also was given heroin and marijuana during that same time period, according to the indictments.

Investigators also found more than 200 grams but less than 1,000 grams of marijuana in Coffey's possession, according to her indictment.

Prosecutors made the case after working with the Independence Police Department and detectives assigned to the Cuyahoga County Regional Human Trafficking Task Force, which is part of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine's Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission.

According to Walsh's office, trafficking in persons became a criminal offense in Ohio in 2011. Prior to that, the majority of prosecutions were handled by federal authorities.

There have been less than two dozen criminal trials for trafficking in persons across all of Ohio's 88 counties since 2011, according to Walsh's office.

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