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Lawsuit alleges black man forced to work at Myrtle Beach restaurant

J&J Cafeteria (Source: WPDE)

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WCIV) -- A federal lawsuit filed by a pair of Charleston lawyers alleges that a Myrtle Beach restaurant and its owners forced a mentally-impaired black man to work there for at least five years without pay and without a break.

The suit, filed in federal court, names Ernest J. Edwards and Bobby Paul Edwards and Half Moon Foods, the parent company of J&J Cafeteria, as the defendants.

Attorneys David Aylor and Mullins McLeod filed the suit on behalf of Christopher Smith, who they allege was forced to work 18-hour shifts six days a week and an 11-hour shift on Sundays without pay and without breaks. The suit alleges the defendants maintained a bank account for Smith to which he was not given access and was forced to live in "sub-human conditions in a cockroach-infested apartment" behind the restaurant.

The suit alleges Smith was continually threatened with bodily harm if he reported his treatment to authorities. It alleges Smith was hit in the head with a frying pan, burned and regularly beaten.

Conway Police officers responded to the restaurant on Oct. 10, 2014 after the Department of Social Services received a complaint. Bobby Edwards was charged with assault and battery and Smith was placed in adult protective services.

The suit alleges that Ernest Edwards had the authority to stop the abuse but did not.

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