Southern Ohio men among 104 arrested in human trafficking sting

The Ohio Attorney General's Office joined several law enforcement agencies Friday in announcing "the culmination of a human trafficking operation." (Source: Ohio Attorney General's Office)
By  | 

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WSAZ) -- Authorities arrested more than 100 people, including men from Scioto, Meigs, and Pike counties, during a human trafficking investigation in central Ohio.

The Ohio Attorney General's Office joined several law enforcement agencies Friday in announcing "the culmination of a human trafficking operation."

The operation, named "Fourth and Goal," resulted in 104 arrests, including 53 felony charges. Investigators say a portion of "Fourth and Goal" focused on suspects who wanted sexual contact with minors.

Mark Fitzgerald II, 32, of Portsmouth, is charged with importuning and attempted unlawful sexual conduct with a minor.

Wesley Howard, 48, of Pomeroy, and Earl Miller, 41, of Waverly, are each charged with solicitation.

“You don’t know when a man buys sex whether it’s genuine consent or, rather, the victim is being forced with a baseball bat, a knife or the next hit of heroin,” Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said. “When you hear a man talking about buying sex, he never says, ‘I’m buying a woman.’ He talks about a whore, a slut, a piece – and that’s because saying what is really happening is too close to the truth for them to handle. People who think and talk like that know in their heart of hearts – it’s slavery.”

Out of the arrests, 24 suspects are facing charges of importuning and attempted unlawful sexual conduct with a minor. One suspect is also charged with attempted rape. Another suspect has an additional charge of disseminating matter harmful for juveniles.

Yost's office named 30 people facing solicitation charges.

"Additionally, 43 women were provided with social services and referred to CATCH Court," a press release states.

More than 30 law enforcement agencies and social service organizations worked together on the investigation, including the Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force.

Click here for a list of the suspects and more quotes from the law enforcement agencies involved.