Feds fine SC man who enslaved intellectually disabled Black man

 Feds fine SC man who enslaved intellectually disabled Black man

gavel in courtroom

gavel in courtroom

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A Conway man who pleaded guilty to enslaving a Black man with an intellectual disability at his restaurant has to pay him back more than $500,000, a court ruled last month.

The Florence District court did initially order restitution of the full amount of wages and overtime compensation, but it did not include, as requested by the government, an “additional equal amount as liquidated damages,” for when minimum wages and overtime compensation have not been paid as required.

The government appealed the initial amount, and now the amount has doubled from roughly $273,000 to around $546,000.

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 “Jack,” had worked since he was 12 years old, according to court documents. He was paid for his duties by the owners until Edwards took over.

Once Edwards began managing the restaurant in 2009, he moved Jack into an apartment attached to the restaurant and forced him to work more than 100 hours per week without pay.

Not only did Jack work long hours without pay, he was never given a day off, according to court documents. Edwards took advantage of Jack’s intellectual disability and kept Jack isolated from his family, threatening to have him arrested, and verbally abusing him.

Edwards, who is white, beat the victim with a belt, fists and pots and pans. On one occasion, court documents detail, when Jack failed to deliver fried chicken to the buffet as quickly as Edwards had demanded, Edwards dipped metal tongs into hot grease and pressed them to Jack’s neck, resulting in a burn that fellow employees had to immediately treat.

This treatment left Jack physically and psychologically scarred.

“I felt like I was in prison. Most of the time I felt unsafe, like Bobby could kill me if he wanted,” Jack told authorities.” I wanted to get out of that place so bad but couldn’t think about how I could without being hurt.”

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, 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,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Jody Norris said in a 2019 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.”

Profile Image of Gerard Albert III

Gerard Albert III reports on any and everything in Myrtle Beach for The Sun News. Albert was editor-in-chief at Florida International University’s student newspaper. He also covered Miami-Dade and Broward County for WLRN, South Florida’s NPR station. He is an award-winning journalist who has reported throughout South Florida and New York City. He enjoys balancing the discipline and conviction in journalism with finding creative ways to find the truth and report it. Si, hablo espanol.

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