CLEARWATER, Fla. - Police say they have arrested a 37-year-old man in connection with a scheme to defraud and lock down a group of people who had come to trust him for their care and well-being.
When Jeffrey Keowin moved into a house on North Osceola Avenue back on December 10th, the neighbors took notice of the strange new tenant and his roommates.
"It was the stir of the neighborhood," said Chris Weinandt, who lives a couple of doors down from 1412 Osceola. He said the quiet residential street wasn't so for the three or four days Keowin shared this house with a host of others.
"We had talked with the neighbors here," said Weinandt. "Everybody knew there was something fishy."
In fact, Chris called the out-of-town-owner of the house just about the time Clearwater cops showed up to check on the place and found that Keowin was the host at a house of horrors.
"This is someone who was the lowest of the low," said Rob Shaw with Clearwater Police. "He was taking advantage of young people, of people who had disadvantages. They were mentally challenged. Basically luring them down here from Indiana with the promise of room and board there and then he basically takes over their lives."
Keowin now is facing five counts of false imprisonment, two counts of sexual battery and one count of human trafficking. Police say he used verbal and physical threats to enforce the rules of the house which included him taking their government checks and forcing them to stay inside.
He also is charged with forcing one young woman into prostitution and collecting the proceeds, as well as trying to force two others into prostitution.
"One of the more disturbing things as well is that he didn't allow people access to medical care," said Shaw, ticking off the list of complaints against Keowin. "I think one of the victims was a diabetic. Others needed psychological care and all of them was denied as well."
Keowin is now denied his freedom as the charges against him are added up. Clearwater PD says that while some victims have been placed in state care, others may still be out there and they're asking for any additional information to help keep him locked up.
Anyone with any information is asked to call Clearwater Police at (727) 562-4242.