DAUPHIN COUNTY, Pa. -- Officials in Dauphin County say they've apprehended two men, accused of human trafficking. Authorities say the two were luring victims with drugs and forcing them to commit retail theft and other heinous acts. Those two men are accused of creating a self-proclaimed ministry to house multiple victims that they lured with the promise of heroin and cocaine; police say they then forced them to steal for them or perform sex acts.
"What occurred in that location was a house of horror for these addicts," said District Attorney Ed Marsico.
Police say it's the first case of involuntary servitude they've seen in years in Dauphin County.
"I've been a police officer for eight years, and this is the first time I've come down this road," said Anthony Fiore, a Street Crimes Unit Officer for Harrisburg Bureau of Police. He said the investigation began with a simple traffic stop.
Officials announced they arrested two men in collection: Daerell Holmes and Edward Edmonds. Police say both are accused of using five victims, three females and two men, including a 16 year-old girl, to steal gaming systems from stores. The men would then sell the items for profit.
Authorities say those victims were held at a location near the 2400 block of N. 6th Street in Harrisburg, lured in by the promise of drugs.
"It was determined people were being held there against their will and were committing crime acts against their will because of their addictions," added Officer Fiore.
If the victims could not pay for the drugs, authorities say they would be beaten by the men or forced to commit sex acts.
"They could agree to be beaten with a belt, lashed by a belt, or they agreed to have a BB gun fired at them," added Marisco.
Edmonds is also charged with sex abuse of a child. Police say he's known on the streets as “Big Web”. FOX 43 found graffiti on N. 6th Street with his street alias. Authorities say Edmonds disguised the trafficking by creating a ministry - "Beyond Your Limits Ministry" -- which he lists on Facebook and on Linkedin.
"You have guns, drugs, sex, juveniles, and then to top it off, you have a young man proclaiming to be a minster, and that was not the case," said Chief Thomas Carter, Harrisburg Bureau of Police.
Authorities say both men were taken to county prison on $250-thousand bail. Their preliminary hearing is August 10th. Police say there could be more victims; they are continuing to investigate.