A Conway man, who previously pleaded guilty to coercing an African-American man with an intellectual disability to work extensive hours at a restaurant for no pay, was sentenced to 10 years in prison Wednesday and forced to pay more than $270,000 in restitution.
Bobby Paul Edwards, 54, pleaded guilty to one count of forced labor in June 2018 after authorities claimed he had forced a man to work for free between 2009 and 2014 as a cook at J&J Cafeteria.
Edwards managed the Conway restaurant where the victim, identified in court as “JCS,” had worked since he was 12 years old, a news release stated. Once Edwards began managing the restaurant in 2009, he increased JCS’s duties, requiring him to work more than 100 hours per week, stopped paying the victim and began using violence, threats, isolation and intimidation, authorities said.
The defendant beat the victim with a belt, fists and pots and pans, authorities said. On one occasion, he dipped metal tongs into hot grease and burned the victim’s neck. Edwards also yelled at the victim and used racial slurs to belittle and demean him.
After a concerned resident notified state authorities of the defendant’s abuse, the victim was removed from the situation in October 2014.
“This abusive enslavement of a vulnerable person is shocking,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Jody Norris said in a news release. “The FBI is always vigilantly searching for these offenses and stands ready to bring perpetrators to justice and help victims reclaim their lives. We understand human trafficking takes many forms and we encourage anyone with information related to these crimes to contact the FBI.”