Clearwater man charged with human trafficking - WFLA News Channel 8

Clearwater man charged with human trafficking

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CLEARWATER, FL (WFLA) - A Clearwater man faces five counts of false imprisonment, two counts of sexual battery and one count of human trafficking for incidents related to people who were living with him, according to a Clearwater Police report.

Detectives say 38-year-old Jeffrey Keowin held five people inside a home on North Osceola Avenue.  The alleged victims included two mothers and their two sons, plus a 17-year-old girl.  Investigators say Keowin held them against their wills, without enough food, and without needed medicine. 

They say he took the victims' government benefits and ruled with an iron fist.

"They were also being punched.  They were being slapped. They were being kicked," said Clearwater Police spokesman Rob Shaw.  "Then we have also the two rape charges. So this is one bad egg."

Shaw says Keowin brought the five victims from the small town of Peru, Indiana to the Bay area.  He says they would travel back and forth starting in early 2013.  Sometimes the victims were confined to the back of a U-haul truck. 

For the past two weeks, police say Keowin moved to three places in Clearwater.  Neighbors are upset.

"That's crazy because I don't know, I walk my son through here every day and I had no idea anything like that was going on over here," said a neighbor named Amie.

"It's ridiculous for to have people just locked in your house," said Judah, who did not want to give his last name.  "Keeping 'em prisoner. And I don't know, he was sexually abusing them. It's a bit nerve-wracking."

Investigators say Keowin forced the teenage girl with diminished mental capacity into a sex act.  He is also accused of sexually abused 20-year-old male victim, who also had a mental disability.  They say he also forced the teen into prostitution.

"He would drive her to whatever business she was conducting, and always be with her then he would take her money from her ... He also apparently tried to get two others into prostitution as well," said Rob Shaw.

A police victim's advocate is working with the victims.  Keowin is being held on $165,000 bond.

Anyone who may have information on this case, or believe that the suspect is involved in more cases, should call Clearwater Police at 562-4242.

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