- By Mark Gokavi Staff Writer
On a typical day, Kendra Ross said she would work as many as 17 unpaid hours in a Dayton restaurant while under the control of what she later claimed in federal court was a cult.
Ross recently was awarded $8 million by a Kansas City federal judge in a civil lawsuit against the United Nation of Islam, the group Ross called a cult now known as Value Creators and led by Royall Jenkins.
She claimed she was trafficked in multiple cities as unpaid labor. That included in Dayton, where she says she worked at a home where Jenkins stayed and the Food For Life Supreme restaurant on Dayton’s Siebenthaler Avenue. The restaurant, which the suit claimed was operated by UNOI/Value Creators, has since closed.
Value Creators declined to comment about Ross’ case, according to a woman who answered the phone number listed on the group’s website.
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In the February 2018 hearing, Ross described for the judge a typical day for her. It included work at the restaurant from 6 a.m. until sometimes 11 p.m. Ross’ complaint said she sometimes took care of the house in which Jenkins stayed when he was in Dayton.
“So in the morning wake up, get myself ready, get the kids ready that were in the household, make breakfast, clean,” Ross said, via a transcript provided by Ross’ attorney, Betsy Hutson. “And when the transportation would come, I would get the kids on the bus and then go to whatever job I was going to be doing.
“Mostly it was at the diner cooking. And I would do that until I went home. And when I went home, there was more taking care of the children, cooking dinner, cleaning and — and taking care of — I don’t know, just basically took care of the whole household.”
Hutson said Ross was subjected to a non-legal “marriage” with a UNOI member while in Dayton.
“They restricted her access to the outside world,” Hutson said. “She didn’t form relationships or meaningful connections to anyone outside the group.”
In the February hearing, Ross said she feared trying to escape because there were tales of former UNOI members being killed: “I just felt like I couldn’t leave, like, I would end up getting killed or something bad happening to me.”
Hutson said Ross finally got away from UNOI by the combination of the group’s fracturing, the help of non-cult member relatives and various non-profit organizations.
“Finally,” Hutson wrote in the complaint, “in 2012, at the age of 21, Ms. Ross gathered her courage and strength to escape from UNOI.”
The Dayton Daily News looked into the issue of human trafficking in the Miami Valley and what local agencies knew about Ross’ case. An in-depth story will publish this weekend in the Dayton Daily News and on MyDaytonDailyNews.com.