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Woman pleads guilty in human-trafficking case

YOUNGSTOWN — A former Youngstown Police Department dispatcher pleaded guilty to a charge of attempted obstructing justice and was sentenced to 18 months of probation.

Elaine Hellman, 72, is the second person to plead guilty in a case involving human trafficking.

Her son Ronald Hellman, 51, of Youngstown, is the lead defendant in the case that included 104 counts in the indictment. Elaine Hellman was charged after she warned her son, Ronald, that he was a target of a police investigation.

James Jaster, 74, of Boardman, pleaded guilty Oct. 4 to three felony counts. He will be sentenced after the trial of Ronald Hellman, which is scheduled for Dec. 2. Prosecutors agreed to recommend Jaster serve an 18-month prison sentence in exchange for his testimony.

The investigation, led by the Mahoning Valley Human Trafficking Task Force, began in July 2018 after authorities received a tip alleging that one of the co-defendants, Charles D. Krusac, 78, of Austintown, was creating child pornography involving at least one area juvenile, according to the press release. Krusac committed suicide last fall before the indictments were handed up.

Hellman faces 22 felony counts — eight counts of trafficking in persons, six counts of rape, two counts of compelling prostitution and six counts of promoting prostitution. He is accused of forcing multiple women and children to engage in sexual conduct with himself, Krusac and others, according to a release from Gov. Mike DeWine, who was attorney general at the time of the arrests.

Dozens of females have been identified to be part of the human trafficking ring through videotapes and other methods, authorities have said.

Another person indicted in the ring was Lori Jackson, 43, of Warren, charged with trafficking in persons and compelling prostitution.

Elaine Hellman was charged for using her position as a police dispatcher to help her son avoid contact with law enforcement. She was dismissed from her job.

rsmith@tribtoday.com