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  • Writer's pictureJoe Lyons

AG Yost Praises Statewide Human Trafficking Crackdown That Arrested 160

AG Yost Praises Statewide Human Trafficking Crackdown That Arrested 160

(COLUMBUS, Ohio) — Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost today announced the success of a weeklong statewide human trafficking crackdown, ‘Operation Buyer’s Remorse,’ which sought to arrest those trying to buy sex and to identify survivors of human trafficking.

“Law enforcement across Ohio teamed up in a concerted effort to stem the demand that fuels human trafficking,” Yost said. “The success of this operation is measured not only by the number of arrests but also by the resources offered to survivors of human trafficking and the intelligence gathered that will propel long-term investigations forward.”

Led by AG Yost’s Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission (OOCIC), Operation Buyer’s Remorse was a collaborative effort that took place from Sept. 25 to Sept. 30 in every corner of the state, including in and around Columbus, Cleveland, Toledo, Akron, Youngstown, Marietta and Portsmouth.

The operation led to 160 arrests and was comprised of coordinated “stings” conducted by OOCIC’s eight human trafficking and major crimes task forces. The task forces’ work was amplified by numerous local law enforcement agencies that also conducted anti-human trafficking operations.

Additionally, search warrants were conducted at 11 massage parlors suspected of human trafficking activities as part of ongoing, long-term investigations.

Over the course of the week, 149 “johns” seeking to buy sex were arrested and charged with engaging in prostitution. Additional arrests included two individuals for seeking to have sex with minors and six for promoting prostitution. Others were arrested for illegally possessing narcotics and/or firearms, or because there were outstanding warrants against them.

Those arrested come from all backgrounds, including an EMT, nurses, educators, retirees, former law enforcement officers, self-employed individuals, delivery drivers, and others. The youngest john arrested was 17 and the oldest was 84.

Law enforcement officers interviewed 104 survivors of human trafficking, who were provided services from health care and social service organizations.

“Nearly 100 law enforcement agencies and service organizations participated in this operation – I am grateful for each and every partner who dedicated their time and resources, as we all play a key role in the fight against human trafficking,” Yost said. “Our message is simple: Don’t buy sex in Ohio!”

Operation Highlights

The H.E.A.L. Human Trafficking Task Force, consisting of the Huron, Erie, Ashland and Lorain Sheriff’s Offices, along with the Northeast Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force, conducted a search warrant on an illicit massage parlor in Lorain County. The search warrant resulted in the seizure of more than $49,000 and furthered an active investigation into criminal activity and potential human trafficking.

The Columbus Division of Police’s PACT Unit (Police and Community Together) made 62 arrests over five days. The unit arrested Delbert Thomas, 75, of Columbus twice on the same day. After the first arrest, Thomas sought to buy sex in a different area of the city and was arrested a second time. The PACT Unit also arrested Joseph Henry, 47, of Columbus, who is a registered sex offender.

The Toledo Police Department and U.S. Border Patrol served search warrants on five illicit massage parlors. The search led to the seizure of $25,000 and numerous electronic devices associated with the businesses. Kwi Hood, Ziaojing Yuan, Chunya Jiao, Junjuan Tao, Young Stone, and Xiaoyan Gou are all facing charges of promoting prostitution.

The Summit Regional Human Trafficking Task Force served four search warrants on illicit massage parlors as part of ongoing investigations. Seven survivors of human trafficking were offered social services.

The Madison County Sheriff’s Office arrested one individual for felony possession of narcotics.

The Montgomery County Human Trafficking Task Force conducted a john sting operation and arrested Shawn Ryken, a staff sergeant, and Jason Goins, a major, from the U.S. Air Force, as well as Michael Masterson, an administrator at the University of Dayton, and Ramesh Karki, a professor at Indiana University.

The Mahoning Valley Human Trafficking Task Force arrested Jordan Perez, 35, of Masury, Ohio, on charges of engaging in prostitution and possessing criminal tools. Perez brought a firearm to buy sex – but did not bring any money. He claimed he intended to pay for sexual services via a web app.

The Fairfield County Sheriff’s Office and Lancaster Police Department arrested Nick Claybourn, 29, of Rushville on charges of engaging in prostitution. Claybourn is a sixth-grade teacher in the Fairfield Union Local School District.

During their operation, the Southeast Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force had several encounters with individuals that led to felony arrests. Ethan Ross, 22, of Lowell, was arrested on an active warrant for kidnapping, a first-degree felony, and on a felonious assault charge, a second-degree felony. Jamey Lacy, 46, of Zanesville, was arrested and charged with trafficking in drugs in a school zone, a fifth-degree felony, possession of a controlled substance, a fifth-degree felony, and soliciting, a third-degree felony. The task force also executed a search warrant on a suspected massage parlor in Belpre.

The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office and Department of Public Safety offered services to 37 potential victims of human trafficking during two daylong outreach events.

Names of Arrestees

Statements from Inside the Operation

Franklin County Sheriff’s Office – Sheriff Dallas Baldwin

“Human Trafficking is a major problem across the country, and we want to stop the illegal activity from occurring here in Franklin County. It’s why we partnered once again with the Ohio Attorney General’s office and other local law enforcement agencies to battle this heinous crime. This collaboration helps strengthen our daily investigation efforts as we share resources not only in arrests and convictions but to help those who are victims.”

Homeland Security Investigations – HSI Detroit Special Agent in Charge Angie M. Salazar

“This operation represents true partnership between federal, state and local law enforcement to fight human trafficking in Ohio. Our efforts to identify victims of trafficking and provide services is just as important as holding these offenders, especially those in positions of public trust, accountable.”

Columbus Division of Police – Chief Elaine Bryant

“The Columbus Division of Police is committed to the relentless pursuit of criminals responsible for human trafficking, prostitution and crimes that exploit children. We will continue to support efforts to prevent these crimes by devoting resources to combat these complex issues through the Police and Community Together Unit, the Missing and Exploited Children’s Unit, the Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force, and the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.”

East Cleveland Police Department – Chief Brian Gerhard

“We are proud to support and cooperate with the Northeast Ohio Human Trafficking Operation for the operation held in our city.”

Hillard Division of Police – Chief Michael Woods

“We want to drive this illegal activity out of Hilliard, and it’s individuals who solicit prostitution online creating the demand. We’re hopeful this operation will not only serve as a deterrent for human trafficking, but will provide assistance to human trafficking victims so they can get connected to advocates and resources. This operation has been another example of the successful partnership between the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and other law enforcement agencies in Central Ohio.”

Madison County Sheriff’s Office – Sheriff John R. Swaney

“The Madison County Sheriff’s Office fully supports the Ohio Organized Crime Commission and the Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force in their efforts to rid central Ohio of crimes like prostitution and human trafficking. We do not want this type of activity in our community, so my office has teamed up with the task force and several other central Ohio agencies to participate in a statewide initiative to target and arrest anyone participating in these types of crimes. We feel that contributing to this initiative helps us better serve the citizens of Madison County.”

Licking County Sheriff’s Office – Captain Jay Cook

“The Licking County Sheriff’s Office is grateful to be a part of this year’s human trafficking sting operation. I know this will impact the victims of human trafficking in a positive way, giving them the assistance and resources needed to overcome their circumstances. This operation will not only shine a light on such a dark reality for some in central Ohio, but it will further strengthen the partnership with local law enforcement.”

New Albany Police Department – Chief Greg Jones

“This latest operation is part of a proactive and shared effort to help victims of human trafficking. Additionally, our goal is to offer aid and options to individuals involved in the dangerous work of prostitution and prosecute those who exploit them. The New Albany Police Department remains committed to working with the Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force and the Ohio Attorney General’s Office to battle human exploitation at every level.”

Marysville Police Department – Chief Tony L. Brooks

“The Marysville Police Department is supportive of Operation Buyer’s Remorse and is proud to collaborate with Ohio law enforcement to address the issues that fuel sex trafficking within the city of Marysville and the state of Ohio.”

Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department – Sheriff Harold A. Pretel

“Through the Northeast Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department is proud to partner with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission, local, state, and federal law enforcement partners as well as our community partners in Operation Buyer’s Remorse that focuses on human trafficking. Joint operations like this highlight the power of collective efforts to identify victims and push needed resources to them, locate offenders, and raise awareness in the community of this heinous crime. Although we bring to light the success of this operation, let us not forget the difficult work that begins for those identified victims and the organizations that support them through their healing process.”

Operation Participants

Special thanks to the nearly 100 law enforcement agencies and non-government organizations that joined AG Yost’s Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission in Operation Buyer’s Remorse.

“I want to thank OOCIC Executive Director Rocky Nelson and Deputy Director Matt Hilbert for their months of work that culminated in the success of Operation Buyer’s Remorse,” AG Yost said. “Rocky and Matt ensured that over the past week hundreds of law enforcement officers were equipped, covert and safe. Great work!”

For each task force recognized below, the lead agency is listed first.

OOCIC Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force

Columbus Division of Police, Homeland Security Investigations, BCI, FBI, Ohio State University Police Department, Salvation Army, Southeast Healthcare

OOCIC Montgomery County Human Trafficking Task Force

Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, Butler Township Police Department, Miami Township Police Department, Homeland Security Investigations

OOCIC Northeast Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force

Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department, Lake County Sheriff’s Office, Ashtabula County Sheriff’s Office, Geauga County Sheriff’s Office, East Cleveland Police Department, MetroHealth Police Department, Cleveland Police, Warrensville Heights Police Department, North Olmsted Police, Westlake Police Department, Ohio Investigative Unit, Homeland Security Investigations, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office, Harriett Tubman Movement, Ohio ICAC, Willoughby Police, Lake County Prosecutor’s Office, Westshore Enforcement Bureau, Ashtabula Police Department, Canopy Child Advocacy Center, Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, Conneaut Police Department, Solon Police Department

OOCIC Southeast Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force

Washington County Sheriff’s Office, Marietta Police Department, Belpre Police Department, Marietta College Police Department, Athens Police Department, Morgan County Sheriff’s Office, Noble County Sheriff’s Office, Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, Athens County Sheriff’s Office, Meigs County Sheriff’s Office, Athens County Prosecutor’s Office, Rescue and Restore Coalition, Ohio State Highway Patrol, Noble County Prosecutor’s Office

OOCIC Summit Regional Human Trafficking Task Force

Summit County Sheriff’s Office, Medina County Prosecutor’s Office, Portage County Sheriff’s Office, Stark County Sheriff’s Office, Akron Police, Stow Police, Springfield Township Police Department, Ohio Adult Parole Authority, Summit County Prosecutor’s Office

Mahoning Valley Human Trafficking Task Force

Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office, BCI, Ohio Investigative Unit, Youngstown Police Department, East Palestine Police Department, Austintown Township Police Department, Salem Police Department, Warren Police Department, Cortland Police Department, Compass Rape Crisis and Counseling Center, Beaver Township Police Department

Southern Ohio Organized and Major Crimes Task Force

Scioto County Sheriff’s Office, Portsmouth Police Department, Pike County Sheriff’s Office, Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office, New Boston Police Department, Scioto County Prosecutor’s Office, Pike County Prosecutor’s Office

H.E.A.L. Human Trafficking Task Force

Huron County Sheriff’s Office, Erie County Sheriff’s Office, Ashland County Sheriff’s Office, Lorain County Sheriff’s Office

Additional agencies that participated in the operation

Marysville Police Department, Lancaster Police Department, Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, Columbus Police PACT, Pickaway County Sheriff’s Office, Licking County Sheriff’s Office, Fairfield County Sheriff’s Office, Madison County Sheriff’s Office, New Albany Police Department, Hilliard Police Department, Grove City Police Department, Dublin Police Department, Toledo Police Department, Lorain Police Department, U.S. Marshals Service, Reynoldsburg Police Department, Ohio Department of Public Safety

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