Federal indictment accuses Conway restaurant manager of forcing - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

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Federal indictment accuses Conway restaurant manager of forcing mentally-challenged man to work

Source: Raycom Media Source: Raycom Media

CONWAY, SC (WMBF) – A Conway man faces a federal indictment following allegations that he forced a mentally-challenged man to work at his restaurant over a number of years.

According to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina has charged 52-year-old Bobby Paul Edwards with one count of forced labor.

From September 2009 to October 2014, Edwards allegedly used “force, threats of force, physical restraint, and coercion, among other means,” to force the victim, "who has an intellectual disability," to work as the buffet cook at J&J Cafeteria in Conway, the release stated.

The defendant managed the restaurant at the time of the alleged incidents.

John Christopher Smith previously told WMBF News he had been working at J&J Cafeteria in downtown Conway since he was 12 years old, busing tables, cooking and doing other tasks.

Smith then alleges Edwards began physically abusing him.

Court documents allege the victim was subjected to beatings with a belt, choking, slapping and being punched with a closed fist.

Smith was also allegedly burned on his back by Edwards, who used hot tongs. A previous doctor's assessment from the Conway Physicians Group in Aynor conducted on Oct. 20, 2014 confirmed scars associated with this reported incident.

In November 2015, a 14-count lawsuit was filed on behalf of Smith in federal court. It alleged slavery, race discrimination, disability discrimination, violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, violation of the South Carolina Payment of Wages Act, negligence, negligent hiring and supervision, assault and battery, false imprisonment, “outrage”/intentional infliction of emotional distress, conversion, fraudulent misrepresentation, and respondeat superior.

Online records indicate the lawsuit is still proceeding through the court system. The most recent action listed was an Aug. 4 notice of request for protection from court appearance.

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