Largo man accused of human trafficking faces more charges

LARGO — It all comes down to whose side of the story you believe: hers or his?

Twice now, Largo police have said they trust the version provided by a 23-year-old woman who said she was repeatedly drugged by her live-in boyfriend and kept a virtual prisoner in his home.

Most recently, police expressed confidence that 63-year-old Joseph N. Lallier manipulated the woman into submission when they added more charges stemming from his human trafficking arrest in June.

But the woman who originally claimed she was a victim has changed her story more than once.

To understand the bizarre saga, you have to go back to the beginning.

In June, Largo police charged Lallier with human trafficking after they were called to his home in the Wild Oaks neighborhood south of Ulmerton Road for a domestic dispute. The woman at the house told police Lallier was giving her oxycodone in exchange for sexual favors and that she was being kept against her will.

The St. Petersburg Times is not naming the woman because of the nature of the alleged crime.

According to arrest reports, police executed a search warrant and found prescription drugs, more than $80,000 and a ledger detailing how much oxycodone Lallier was giving her. Police said they believed Lallier was taking advantage of the woman's drug addiction.

In an interview with the St. Petersburg Times in June, the 23-year-old woman said Lallier threatened to harm her if she told anyone what was happening. She also said that Lallier paid two people to fill prescriptions and give him the pills.

The woman got a restraining order against Lallier on June 21, the day he was arrested on the human trafficking charge. He bonded out of jail, but was ordered not to have contact with the woman.

In the latest arrest, police said Lallier violated the terms of his pre-trial release by sending the woman numerous text messages. They said he promised the woman drugs and that he would pay to help her move away from the area if she "would sign a written statement to his attorney that she lied to the police" and drop the injunction, arrest reports show. For that, police said, he was charged with tampering with a witness.

On July 19, the woman went to the office of Lallier's attorney, Joseph Episcopo, and signed an affidavit saying that pretty much everything police based their case on was not true and that the statement police took from her was filled with "inaccuracies."

In the affidavit, the woman said Lallier only controlled her medication to ensure she didn't overdose, that he never held her against her will and that he never engaged in any drug deals.

But police said they have identified the two men Lallier was paying for the prescriptions. For that, they said, he was also charged Thursday with two counts of conspiracy.

Largo police spokesman Lt. Mike Loux said Friday the additional charges came out of the ongoing investigation and that the woman lied in the affidavit after Lallier "promised her more drugs and a better life."

The woman did not respond to calls from the Times on Friday. Lallier was being held in the Pinellas County Jail on Friday without bail.

However, Episcopo said Friday that the woman's affidavit is the true story.

He said the police are "taking advantage of a severely addicted girl, woman really," he said. "They continue to just accept what she says whenever the whim strikes her. She'll turn around next week and say none of this is true."

Episcopo said he has cell phone records to show the woman called Lallier 31 times after his arrest in June.

"It's just back and forth. It's the craziest thing," he said. "We have a sworn statement and I'm standing by it."

Rita Farlow can be reached at (727) 445-4157 or farlow@sptimes.com.

Largo man accused of human trafficking faces more charges 08/05/11 [Last modified: Friday, August 5, 2011 9:00pm]

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