UPDATE: Prostitution Case Headed to Grand Jury; Suspect Identified

By: WSAZ News Staff Email
By: WSAZ News Staff Email

UPDATE 8/19/14
MARIETTA, Ohio (WSAZ) --The case against a man accused of running a prostitution ring has been sent to a grand jury following a preliminary hearing Monday.

A Washington County, Ohio judge ruled probable cause was found on drug and prostitution charges against 37-year-old James Walker. Human trafficking charges against Walker were dropped.

Walker originally told police his name was Xavier Freeman when he was arrested two weeks ago near a Marietta motel.

Investigators say Walker was a pimp working in Ohio and West Virginia.

Prosecutors say he used force, fear and intimidation to force the women into prostitution.

"To keep an alias like that and to keep that sort of fake identity is because you know you're engaged in criminal activity," says Washington County Assistant Prosecutor Kevin Rings.

"The state did not produce sufficient evidence on any kind of compelling, having any of the prostitutes come in and testify or anything like that," says Ray Smith, Washington County Public Defender.

Following the hearing the judge set Walker’s bond at $75,000.

MARIETTA, Ohio (WSAZ) -- Investigators in Marietta, Oho say a man arrested and charged with human trafficking might have ties to Charleston, W.Va.

The Washington Co. Sheriff's Office says they still haven't identified the man calling himself "Xavier Freeman."

Freeman is accused of forcing six women to sleep with men for money. Investigators say he got at least half of that money.

It all started when a confidential informant led police to a hotel on Pike Street in Marietta.

Investigators say when Freeman and seven women left the hotel in a car they were pulled over for a traffic violation.

They say during a search they found nearly $7,000 in cash and 181 Hydromorphone pills on Freeman.

They also say Freeman had a New York ID, but said he was from Bluefield, W.Va.

The Sheriff's Office says the women are from all over the U.S., and they say other places he has worked are Charleston, W.Va. and Roanoke, Virginia.

Investigators say Freeman has been in our area 11 or 12 days, moving from one hotel to the next on both sides of the river.

"Part of the problem is he is not cooperating with us. He gave us a social security number which belonged to a girl who is incarcerated in New Jersey. And he won't tell us where he was born or parents so it's hard to establish his identity," said Sheriff Larry Mincks.

Besides the human trafficking charge, he is charged with possession of a controlled substance, compelling prostitution and promoting prostitution.

Four of the women were also arrested.

They say Shaasia Jones was helping Freeman in the ring and she is charged with complicity.

Tamisha Lowe and Tiffany Pendergrass are charged with obstructing official business.

Reba Grahovac is charged with possession of drug abuse instruments.

Investigators say some of the women have drug dependency issues and relied on Freeman for pills so they wouldn't get sick.

"There's been some violence with firearms, beatings, we discovered in speaking with some of the individuals. So we believe that they're probably scared for their lives. Right now, basically the investigation has just started. There's a lot of work to be done to basically find more of the victims," says Det. Ryan Huffman, with the Marietta Police Department.

Police say they're working with federal human trafficking task force agents to make this a federal case.

Freeman is in the Washington Co. Jail.

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