Investigations into child sex trafficking are continuing after a man was sentenced this month to three decades behind bars in an area case.
Charles Daub's conviction isn't the last case linked to his teenage victim, whom Daub offered other men for sex.
Two other people are awaiting trial. And Fort Wayne police are awaiting lab results that could result in other criminal charges, department spokeswoman Sofia Rosales-Scatena said.
Huntington County Prosecutor Amy Richison said charging people with sex trafficking offenses is difficult in Indiana. Indiana's human trafficking laws rely on victim cooperation, she said.
Many victims “don't even realize they are the subjects of human trafficking,” Richison said. Even if the victims are cognizant of their situations, cases “are incredibly difficult to prosecute, not impossible, because I'm doing that.”
Richison has held her elected office since 2007 and been a prosecutor for 25 years. The case involving Daub, the 47-year-old Huntington man sentenced March 1 to 30 years in prison, is among those she has prosecuted. The teenager in that case was victimized between the ages of 13 and 15.
Brenda Leah Chopson, 34, of Warren, and Chad Richardson, 51, of Fort Wayne were charged with several crimes related to the same Huntington County sex trafficking case investigated by several agencies, including Fort Wayne police.
An intense search for the victim in late October resulted in Chopson's and Richardson's charges and a statement from Fort Wayne police that more charges were expected.
“Our immediate concern was about her safety,” Richison said. “We partnered with Fort Wayne (police). They helped us a lot.”
Chopson was charged in Huntington Superior Court in December with child molesting, promotion of sexual trafficking of a younger child and sexual misconduct with a minor. She has a pretrial hearing April 12.
Court documents established Chopson was the liaison between the victim and Daub. Chopson and Daub “dated,” and Chopson's primary motivation with “hooking” up the victim and Daub was so “Chopson would keep him happy and get better sex from Mr. Daub,” according to the probable cause affidavit.
Daub picked the victim up when she visited her grandparents. Chopson sometimes walked the girl to Daub's truck. Daub had sex with the victim at his home in Huntington, not far from the local McDonald's, but more often in his truck, court documents said.
When the victim didn't return to her grandmother's in late October, a three-day, multijurisdictional search took place involving Huntington police, Huntington County Sheriff's Department, Fort Wayne police, FBI, Indiana State Police, and representatives from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Court records remain sealed in the case involving Richardson of the 2400 block of Genesee Avenue, whose case is linked to Daub's, according to law enforcement sources. He has a four-day jury trial starting Sept. 21 before Allen Superior Court Judge Fran Gull.
Richardson was arrested a few days after Daub and charged Nov. 1 with four counts of sexual misconduct with a minor and child exploitation related to managing, producing and exhibiting photo, film and video and child pornography possession and misdemeanor contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
In the request to seal the documents, Allen County Deputy Prosecutor Tesa Helge wrote there were “ongoing investigations related to this matter and the release of details contained in the affidavit could jeopardize these investigations.”
In Allen County, a woman was charged in April, prior to the Richardson sex trafficking case, but all of her charges, including sex trafficking, were dismissed three days after they were filed.
The woman was accused of providing an underage girl for a prominent businessman in Fort Wayne and threatening to expose him if he didn't pay her to keep quiet.
When asked about this case, the Allen County prosecutor's office said it was “still under investigation.”
Richison, who obtained convictions against Alissa Thomas and Jeremy Helvie, both 40, in a sex trafficking case last year involving children that included a 4-year-old, said she can't comment on ongoing investigations. Thomas was convicted in July of promotion of child sexual trafficking, child molesting and possession of child pornography. She was sentenced to 26 years in prison, with four years suspended.
Helvie was charged in December 2019 with two counts' child molesting, child exploitation including an aggravating circumstance, child porn possession and performing sexual conduct in the presence of a minor.
Authorities were alerted to Thomas' activities in November 2019 when a report came into the state Department of Child Services hotline that Thomas was sending naked and explicit photos of a 4-year-old girl in order to arouse Helvie, whom Thomas had “dated” in previous months.
Thomas also admitted to sending photos of the small girl to “other men across the country, who just started to flock to her,” court records said.
Helvie accepted a plea agreement in April and is serving 16 years for child molesting and child exploitation.
No centralized reporting in Indiana
The Indiana 2020 State Report on Human Trafficking states there were 157 human trafficking cases, 40 involving minors in 2019, the latest year for reporting.
In the Fort Wayne Police Department's annual reports, there were varying numbers of human trafficking investigations: 13 in 2017, 34 in 2018, two in 2019 and one last year.
In the U.S., there were 11,500 cases reported – higher than any other year since Polaris, a tracking organization in Washington, D.C., opened its National Hotline in 2007. More than 8,200 of those cases were for sex trafficking and the rest were labor trafficking.
The Indiana report, co-authored by the state attorney general's office and the Indiana Coalition to End Sexual Assault and Human Trafficking, criticized the state for not having a “centralized reporting mechanism, so there is not data that comprehensively illustrates the scope of human trafficking in the state. ... Reports from service providers indicate that the scope of human trafficking in Indiana far outpaces the number of cases called in to the hotline.”
Both entities oversee the Indiana Protection for Abused and Trafficked Humans Taskforce. Genevieve Meyer, co-founder of the Resiliency Foundation that coordinates service providers, education and advocacy for victims of sexual abuse, is a member of IPATH.
“Indiana would benefit from a centralized tracking system for human trafficking cases, but different service providers have different viewpoints of how the system should be established and operated,” Meyer said. “People who are trafficked do reach out for help with housing, safety, counseling, medical help and mental health/therapy help, but not necessarily prosecution of their traffickers.”
– Journal Gazette