Conway restaurant manager admits he beat, threatened employee into free labor

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CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – A Conway man admitted in court Monday that he used “violence, threats, isolation and intimidation” to force a man to work 100 hours a week without pay, according to a press release from the Department of Justice. 

Bobby Paul Edwards, 53, of Conway, pleaded guilty Monday in United States District Court for the District of South Carolina to one count of forced labor, admitting that he used violence, threats, isolation and intimidation to compel a man with an intellectual disability to work for over 100 hours a week without pay, the DOJ announced in a press release Wednesday.

“This defendant abused a vulnerable victim, and today’s guilty plea holds the defendant responsible for his criminal acts,” said U.S. Attorney Sherri Lydon for the District of South Carolina.

According to court documents, between 2009 and 2014, Edwards managed a restaurant in Conway, where the victim, identified in court documents as “JCS,” had worked since he was 12-years-old. Once Edwards began managing the restaurant in 2009, he increased JCS’s duties, requiring him to work more than 100 hours per week.

Edwards stopped paying JCS and began using violence, threats, isolation, and intimidation to make JCS work. Edwards admitted to using abusive language, racial slurs, threats, and physical violence that included beating JCS with a belt, punching JCS with his fists, hitting JCS with pots and pans, and burning JCS’s bare neck with hot tongs, as punishment for mistakes or to make the victim work harder.

It wasn’t until October 2014, that JCS was removed from the restaurant after someone complained to officials about the abuse.

“Human trafficking through forced labor can happen on farms, in homes, and as today’s case shows – in public places, such as restaurants,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore.

Edwards faces a maximum of 20 years in prison for forced labor, a $250,000 maximum fine, and mandatory restitution to the victim. A sentencing date has not yet been scheduled.

According to the terms of the plea agreement, Edwards will also be required to pay restitution to JCS in an amount to be determined at the time of sentencing. 

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