The wife of one of three Ohio pastors accused of engaging in repeated sexual acts and the trafficking of teenage girls has been indicted on federal charges accusing her of interfering in her husband's investigation.
The AP reports that 43-year-old Laura Lloyd-Jenkins was arrested Friday in Toledo on charges including obstructing a sex trafficking investigation and making a false statement.
Lloyd-Jenkins, a former county administrator in Ohio, pleaded not guilty and was ordered held pending a detention hearing. If found guilty, she could face a maximum of 28 years in jail.
Her 47-year-old husband, Cordell Jenkins, pleaded not guilty to charges alleging he and two other pastors, 38-year-old Anthony Haynes and 37-year-old Kenneth Butler, conspired to recruit at least three teen girls to have sex with them and shared photos and videos of the girls, the youngest being 14.
Haynes and Jenkins were arrested in April while Butler, who most recently ran a small church where his wife was the co-pastor, was arrested in October.
According to police documents, Haynes is accused of engaging in sexual relations with a then-fourteen year-old girl beginning in 2014 and of coercing the teen "into continued secrecy by implying revealing the sexual activity between them would ruin his family and church." Haynes reportedly paid the teen "hush money" to keep the encounters to herself.
Haynes reportedly introduced the teenager to others who paid the girl for sex, including Jenkins, who had sex with the girl at a Red Roof Inn in Toledo and in his office in a nearby church. Jenkins often recorded the acts with his phone, according to court documents.
Jenkins caused another juvenile girl to engage in commercial sex acts in March 2017, according to the indictment, while Butler also caused another juvenile girl to engage in commercial sex acts from 2015 through 2017. Both teenage girls attended Haynes' church.
Both Haynes and Butler are also facing charges of obstruction of a sex trafficking investigation; Haynes is accused of attempting to destroy electronic evidence of sex trafficking, while Butler is accused of instructing another individual to lie and then lying himself to law enforcement about his involvement.
Each of the men could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted.
"These three men violated the trust of these children and the communities they purported to serve," U.S. Attorney Justin E. Herdman said in a news release, according to the Toledo Blade. "We are grateful for the courage of the victims and the dedication of our law-enforcement personnel in bringing these men to justice."
Celia Williamson, director of the University of Toledo's Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute, said it's not surprising if the three men were acting together.
"It says to me what we already knew, that sex trafficking is a business," she said. "Of course they worked together. That's how it thrives."
Jenkins founded Abundant Life Ministries in Toledo seven years ago, and the church closed after his arrest.
According to his bio on the now-deleted Abundant Life Ministries page, Jenkins pastored for over 15 years at several churches in the A.M.E. Zion Church in South Carolina, Oakland, California, and Toledo. Jenkins' bio also claims that, "never wanting to be idle in his work for the Kingdom and community, Pastor Jenkins has been involved with several organizations" including the NAACP, the Black Methodist Fellowship, Single Parent's Harvest, and more.
Jenkins, the son of two pastors, said his mission in ministry aimed to "make the strong weak, the mend the broken and to heal the wounded."
His bio concluded: "Pastor Jenkins is happily married to First Lady Laura C. Lloyd-Jenkins. He and his wife desire to be living examples of Christ's love in the church and community. His personal motto is 'I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.' Philippians 4:13."