MYRTLE BEACH, SC – A Conway man who pleaded guilty to enslaved a black man with an intellectual disability in his restaurant has to repay him more than $ 500,000, a court ruled last month.
The Florence District Court initially ordered the full wage and overtime pay to be reimbursed, but did not include, as the government requested, an “additional equal amount as flat-rate damages” if the minimum wage and overtime allowance were not paid as needed.
The government appealed the original amount and now the amount has doubled from around $ 273,000 to around $ 546,000.
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Bobby Paul Edwards pleaded guilty to a number of slave laborers in June 2018 after authorities alleged he forced a man to work as a cook in the J&J Cafeteria for free between 2009 and 2014.
Edwards ran the Conway restaurant where the victim, identified in court as “Jack”, had worked since he was 12, according to court documents. He was paid for his duties by the owners until Edwards took over.
When Edwards started running the restaurant in 2009, he moved Jack into an apartment attached to the restaurant and forced him to work more than 100 hours a week for no pay.
Not only did Jack work long hours without pay, he never got a day off according to court documents. Edwards took advantage of Jack’s intellectual disability and kept Jack isolated from his family, threatening to arrest him and berating him.
Edwards, who is white, hit the victim with a belt, fists, and pots and pans. Details once emerged when Jack failed to get fried chicken to the buffet as quickly as Edwards requested. Edwards dipped metal tongs in hot fat and pressed them to Jack’s neck, causing a burn that colleagues had to treat immediately.
This treatment left Jack physically and psychologically scars.
“I felt like I was in prison. Most of the time I felt insecure, like Bobby could kill me if he wanted, ”Jack told the authorities. “I wanted so badly to leave this place, but couldn’t think of how I could do it without getting hurt.”
Edwards also yelled at the victim, using racial slurs to belittle and humiliate them.
After an affected resident informed state authorities of the defendant’s abuse, Jack was removed from the situation in October 2014. Edwards pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
“This abusive enslavement of a vulnerable person is shocking,” said FBI special agent Jody Norris in a 2019 press release. “The FBI is always vigilant on the search for these crimes and is ready to bring the perpetrators to justice and the victims to help regain their lives. We understand that human trafficking takes many forms, and we encourage anyone with information about these crimes to contact the FBI. “
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