National agency honors Caroline investigators
DENTON — The work behind putting two people behind bars in a 2017 Caroline County human trafficking case received national honors from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children organization.
Caroline County Sheriff’s Det. Justin Reibly, Caroline County Department of Social Services CPS Investigator Sarah E. Lepore and Caroline County interim State’s Attorney Joe Riley received the Heroes’ Award from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children organization during a ceremony at Nationals Park in Washington D.C. Thursday, Sept. 20.
The trio got to stand on the field before the game and meet with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children President and CEO John F. Clark and organization co-founder John Walsh, who helped begin the organization after his own son, Adam, was abducted and killed in 1981.
Reibly, Lepore and Riley worked on the 2016 case that led to the arrest and human trafficking conviction of a Caroline County couple for injecting a 15-year-old girl with heroin and forcing her to perform prostitution on adult men in December 2016.
Paul Thomas Owen, 27, of Denton, pleaded guilty to human trafficking and third-degree sex offense in July 2017. Caroline Circuit Court Judge Jonathan Newell sentence Owen to 20 years in prison for the human trafficking conviction, and five years for the third-degree sex offense conviction in September 2017. The sentences run consecutive, and Owen is registered as a Tier II Sex Offender upon release.
Owen’s girlfriend, Darlene Louise Allen, 36, of Ridgely, pleaded guilty to human trafficking, and was sentenced in August 2017 to 20 years in prison by Newell.
According to the Caroline County Sheriff’s Office, the Caroline County Department of Social Services-Protective Services and police began investigating a child abuse allegation in January 2017. Police said investigators confirmed the girl was injected with heroin on several occasions by Allen and Owen.
Police said between Dec. 17 and 20, 2016, Allen, Owen and the girl were staying in a room at the Best Western Hotel in Denton, and the girl allegedly was coerced by Allen and Owen to perform prostitution on adult men in the hotel room in return for drugs and money.
Police said Allen also was performing prostitution in the room, and Owen had sexual intercourse with the girl during the hotel stay.
According to the sheriff’s office, Allen and Owen drove the girl to Delaware for the purposes of performing sexual acts on an elderly man in Greenwood, Del. Police said money was exchanged for the alleged sexual encounter with the Delaware man and the girl.
“The bittersweet part of the award is you hate to see this type of case come into your area,” said Caroline Sheriff Randy Bounds. “But when it does, it is good to see investigators that go the extra mile to get justice for the victim. Our team with Caroline Social Services and State’s Attorney Riley went the extra mile with their outstanding investigation.
“It is quite an honor to get a national award,” he said. “Hats off to Lt. Donald Baker for nominating this case. But there is a victim out there who suffered tremendously on the other end of this stor y.”
Lepore said the teamwork with the sheriff’s office, social services and the state’s attorney’s office is the reason the case was successful.
“We are really blessed in Caroline County because we do have such a good, strong working relationship with each other,” she said. “We all work very, very well together. We would not have gotten the result we did if we didn’t work this well together.”
Riley thanked the sheriff’s office and social services for putting together a very strong case that led to significant convictions and sentences for the couple.
“National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is iconic for all the great things the organization has done to help families,” he said. “It means a lot to get this recognition because they do so much work protecting people. It is a very humbling award.”
Other agencies receiving the Heroes’ awards were the Montgomery County Police Department and Homeland Security investigators from Montgomery County Texas.
For more information about the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, visit www.miss ingkids.com/home.
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children President and CEO John F. Clark presents 2018 Heroes’ awards to Caroline County Department of Social Services CPS Investigator Sarah E. Lepore, Caroline County Sheriff’s Det. Justin Reibly and Caroline County interim State’s Attorney Joe Riley during a reception at Nationals Park in Washington D.C. Thursday, Sept. 20.