Ohio Pastor Arrested As Part of Sex-Trafficking Probe

An Ohio pastor who previously worked as chaplain for a youth center was arrested this week on suspicion of human trafficking-related crimes, authorities say.

Rev. Randolph "Randy" Brown, 64, and Joyce Richmond, 21, were taken into custody on Tuesday and hit with multiple felony charges in relation to the alleged exploitation of multiple underage teenagers who ran away from home back in 2018, police investigators have confirmed.

Prosecutors allege that Brown paid or agreed to pay two teenage victims, who were aged 16 or under at the time, to engage in sexual activities, News 5 reported.

He was charged with two counts of compelling prostitution, while Richmond was charged with two counts of human trafficking and three counts of compelling prostitution.

Both individuals were swiftly detained after the Cuyahoga County Regional Human Trafficking Task Force secured indictments, said Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost.

Online, Brown remains listed as a pastor of the Inner-City Missionary Baptist Church, located on East 55th Street in Cleveland. News outlet WOIO reported the building appeared to have been boarded up this week, as the local community expressed shock at news of the pastor's arrest.

The church initially declined to comment when contacted by Newsweek.

According to News 5, which obtained court documents linked to the case, the incidents allegedly involving Brown took place around August and November 2018. The filings accuse Richmond of human trafficking tied to three female minors between March and October of the same year.

"Indictments of coordinated operations like this don't happen accidentally," AG Yost said in a media release. "It's the great work of our task force and partners in law enforcement, as well as [the] prosecutor office who will now ensure that these traffickers stay behind bars."

The case is currently being spearheaded by the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office. According to WOIO, Brown and Richmond are both scheduled to be arraigned on March 10.

"The allegations in this case are particularly troubling given Mr. Brown's role as a spiritual leader in the community," said Homeland Security Special Investigations (HSI) Special Agent in Charge Vance Callander, in a brief statement released this week. "This investigation should however make clear that traffickers will be held accountable, regardless of the positions they occupy."

According to his church biography page, Brown previously served as owner of Randy's Gospel Music and worked as a chaplain for the Hudson Youth Development Center.

"Randy Brown has been joined in marriage for over thirty-seven years to First Lady Constance Brown," it reads, saying he had worked for religious institutions for 27 years. "Together they have 3 beautiful daughters. Rev. Brown's scripture-testimony is 'Trust in the Lord and do good'-Psalm 37."

A news ticker on the top of the website, dated February 26, now states: "Please advise: All weekly activities have been canceled until further notice. The food bank will remain open." There was no mention of the pastor's arrest on the church Facebook page at the time of writing.

The Cuyahoga County Regional Human Trafficking Task Force is now appealing to the public: "If you or anyone you know that may have been a victim or have information to share regarding Joyce Richmond or Rev. Dr. Randolph Brown, please contact the task force at 216-443-6085."

Update: Officers of the Inner-City Missionary Baptist Church shared the following statement with Newsweek on March 1, following the arrest of pastor Randy Brown:

"The Inner-City Missionary Baptist Church has been stunned, hurt, and rocked by allegations filed against Pastor Randy Brown. We delayed commenting or putting out a press release as we found it necessary to deal with the pain and to process all the events that have occurred.

"These allegations are very serious and deeply disturbing. If the allegations of compelling prostitution of a minor are true, it would be a tragic betrayal of our standards.

"The Church has not received any communication from any law enforcement agency concerning this matter. The Church, as a religious organization, does not have the investigative tools available to law enforcement agencies. Nor can the Church substitute for the courts in adjudicating legal claims.

"The Church has great faith in the judicial system to determine the truth of these claims. Nevertheless, the Church takes seriously its responsibility to hold its members accountable for their conduct with respect of the laws of God and Man.

"Our option as a church is limited but we are placing Pastor Randy Brown on unpaid administrative and pastoral leave pending an investigation.The members of Inner-City Missionary Baptist Church would appreciate if we can be allowed time to heal as we go through this hurtful and painful situation. Thank you and please respect our privacy at this time."

This article was updated with comment sent by the religious institution.

Inner-City Missionary Baptist Church
Rev. Randolph “Randy” Brown remains listed as a pastor of the Inner-City Missionary Baptist Church (pictured), located at 1643 East 55th Street in Cleveland. Google Maps