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Human trafficking charges follow accusation Largo man used woman's addiction to painkillers to control her for months

LARGO — The young woman said she was smitten by the older man who frequented the local strip club where she worked as a dancer.

After she performed a private dance for him in a limo in January 2010, the two began dating. He promised he'd take care of her, she said, so she moved into his Largo home.

But instead, she said, he began to monitor her every move, took away her cell phone and plied her with oxycodone in exchange for sexual favors, she said.

She told no one the full story, she said — until Tuesday, when police came to their home and the woman opened up to them.

After serving a search warrant and finding prescription drugs, more than $80,000 in cash and a ledger documenting how much oxycodone the man was giving her, Largo police arrested 63-year-old Joseph N. Lallier of 8240 Wild Oaks Way and charged him with human trafficking, a rare charge in Pinellas County.

Police said Lallier, a felon, controlled the woman for about a year and a half and kept her as a virtual prisoner by taking advantage of her addiction to oxycodone. Lallier kept the drugs locked up in a 400-pound safe at their home, police said.

"She has an addiction where he would end up supplying her, kind of preying on that addiction, because he had the ability to supply the narcotics she was addicted to," said Largo police Lt. Mike Loux. "She felt like she was trapped there or couldn't go anywhere."

Neither police nor the St. Petersburg Times is naming the woman due to the nature of the allegations.

But in an interview with the Times Wednesday afternoon, the woman said Lallier initially offered her "a beautiful life." Then, after she moved into his beige stucco home in the quiet Wild Oaks neighborhood south of Ulmerton Road, Lallier began "cutting off my ties" with family and friends, she said. He threatened to hurt her or her loved ones if she told anyone what was happening, she said.

"He took anything and everything I had, any resources I had to get out," she said.

The woman acknowledges she was "highly addicted" to narcotic painkillers when she met Lallier, having gotten hooked on them after she suffered a debilitating back injury when she fell off a roof as a teenager. Lallier would dole out the pills to her and keep track in the ledger, she said.

In an arrest report, police said Lallier "began to control her movements and her dosages of oxycodone for sexual favors." Police said Lallier had an alarm system at his house and refused to give the woman the code so he would know if she tried to leave. He also made her give him money she made at her job and he kept track of what she owed him, according to the report.

The woman said Lallier would go to her job and watch her, at times throwing fits if she talked to other people.

Police say they became aware of the situation after Lallier called them Tuesday morning, saying he wanted the woman out of his house.

After the woman told officers her side of the story, police got the warrant and found the money, the ledger and various drugs. Lallier also was charged with trafficking in oxycodone and possession of Xanax (an antianxiety medication), Trazadone and Fluoxetine (antidepressants), Carisprodol (a muscle relaxer) and marijuana.

Human trafficking is a worldwide issue that generally takes the form of forced labor, domestic servitude or forced prostitution. Trafficked people can be physically forced or coerced or deceived into various exploits, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

In Pinellas County, Lallier is the seventh person charged with human trafficking over the past two years. In December, local authorities found 27 Hispanic and Asian people in two homes in Largo and Clearwater. The disposition of that case was unclear Wednesday.

Lallier owns the roughly 2,000-square-foot house with his wife, Wendy Lallier, according to Pinellas County property appraiser records. Pinellas civil court documents show Lallier's wife filed for divorce in February. That case is ongoing.

Wednesday evening, Lallier was being held in the Pinellas County Jail in lieu of $70,650 bail.

He does not have a criminal history in Florida. But he was sentenced to a year in federal prison in Massachusetts in 1999 after he was convicted of charges related to selling cable television descramblers and descrambling kits that helped people get premium and pay-per-view channels without paying for them, according to federal court records and news reports.

Loux said the Largo Police Department was assisting the woman.

Times staff writer Lorri Helfand and researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report.

Human trafficking charges follow accusation Largo man used woman's addiction to painkillers to control her for months 06/22/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 22, 2011 10:54pm]
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