Na­tional agency hon­ors Caro­line in­ves­ti­ga­tors

Times-Record - - FRONT PAGE - By DUSTIN HOLT dholt@ches­pub.com

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.

CON­TRIB­UTED PHOTO

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.

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