A Johnson County grand jury handed down indictments Wednesday, including an indictment against a woman alleged to have been running a human trafficking ring in Paintsville.
The indictment included a new charge, and kept the charges issued at the time of the arrest of Deborah Hamilton, 40, of Thelma. The new charge is a class C felony, alongside the original human trafficking charge — both of which carry the possibility of five to 10 years in prison if Hamilton is convicted. According to the indictment, that new charge is promoting human trafficking of a victim under 18 years of age.
If convicted on all of her charges, Hamilton could face up to 26 years in prison.
During a preliminary hearing on the case, Paintsville Police Department Capt. Johnathan Holbrook detailed the charges against Hamilton, who was arrested in September on charges of human trafficking, promoting human trafficking and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Holbrook said in the hearing he was approached by a confidential informant who reported that there was a “human trafficking ring” at Pineview Trailer Court, and when Holbrook asked the informant if he had any proof, the informant stated that he had spoken to Hamilton, who identified herself as the women’s “boss,” and detailed to the informant different prices for different “services,” such as “$75 for an hour, threesomes for $250 and 12 hours for $300. Hamilton, he testified, also told the informant she “had three that were STD clean,” and that the other females were being tested.
According to Holbrook, Hamilton also sent a “line-up” of the women, some of which were photos of the women’s faces and others which were nude photographs.
As the informant attempted to set up a transaction with Holbrook present and observing the exchange through Facebook instant messaging, Hamilton stated that she only had one girl available at the time as the others were “tied up working,” according to Holbrook.
While Holbrook was with the informant, Hamilton called the informant through Facebook Messenger, and spoke to the informant to tell him to “hurry up.”
Holbrook said Hamilton stated the female she sent out with the informant was younger than her actual age, and Holbrook said that the woman “appeared to be a very young girl,” stating that the woman was “advertised” to be 18, but was actually 20 years old, and was “dressed up very young, with pigtails like a ‘young female.’”
Due to this, Holbrook said that he and PPD Chief Mike Roe “moved on it rather quickly.”
According to Holbrook, the woman cooperated fully, explaining that Hamilton was “her boss,” and that she would receive only $10 of the money paid for her during these transactions, that she was afraid of Hamilton and had nowhere else to go.
Holbrook was asked whether or not it was his understanding that Hamilton kept the rest of the money paid for the sexual acts, and he stated that Hamilton did financially benefit from the transactions.
“Basically, the female cooperated with us fully,” Holbrook said. “She told us that Hamilton was going to rent a trailer to keep the females there, she wouldn’t go into a lot of detail because she was a young girl, very scared.”
A public defender representing Hamilton questioned Holbrook as to why the charges were for human trafficking rather than just prostitution, and Holbrook rebutted by explaining that the female that was “picked up” by his confidential informant appeared to be under duress during her interviews and was crying while giving a written statement - an indication, to Holbrook, that she had been coerced by Hamilton to perform these acts.
“Basically, this young girl said she had no options, nowhere to go, and that Hamilton was her boss,” Holbrook said. “Even in the messages, Hamilton refers to the girls like she owns them.”
According to Holbrook, based on statements from Hamilton, there were “three or four” other females and two males involved in the ring, and Hamilton said confirmed this, but denied that she was the “ringleader,” in the operation, instead shifting that blame to one of the men detained during the execution of the search warrant,
Holbrook said that he and Roe detained the woman, who gave a written statement about a page and a half long, which Holbrook said was a “lengthy statement” because her handwriting was small, and that she cooperated in a video and audio interview - leading to the issuance of the search warrant that saw Hamilton arrested last Wednesday.
Holbrook said that when they executed the warrant, he and Rowe placed Hamilton under arrest and noted that she was “digging around in her private areas,” and that, when walking her to the patrol vehicle, several “used syringes” fell out of her pants.
“Electronics have been seized via the search warrant and sent off,” Holbrook said. “I’ve reached out to (the Kentucky State Police’s Drug Enforcement and Special Investigations Unit) and they’re going to help us on this investigation.”
The investigation is still ongoing, according to Holbrook, and the results of DESI’s investigations of the electronics that were seized are not yet known.
During a hearing Friday in Johnson County Circuit Court, a request for a bond modification was denied by Johnson County Circuit Court Judge John David Preston, meaning Hamilton remained in the custody of the Big Sandy Regional Detention Center. Hamilton is set to be arraigned in the indictment case on Dec. 6.