An undercover task force in Ohio arrested 16 men (pictured above) for trying to sexually exploit children.
This is the second successful undercover operation this year. In March, a task force targeting human trafficking arrested eight people. One person was also charged with felony drug possession.
“This trap will be laid time and time again until the message reverberates – don’t buy sex in Ohio,” Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said in a statement announcing the arrests.
Mahoning County Sheriff Jerry Greene had a warning for child predators who are looking to do similar crimes in Northeast Ohio.
“We are very pleased with the outcome of the operation. This task force is not going to give up or let up on these types of crimes,” Greene said. “If you are someone using the internet to exploit underage children, we want you to know you may be talking to us.”
The Mahoning Valley Human Trafficking Task Force was created three years ago when Ohio Governor Mike DeWine was the state’s attorney general. Youngstown is Mahoning County’s biggest city and a little less than 230,000 people live in the areas, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
“Human trafficking is a horrific crime, and the goal of this task force is to expose the traffickers who are at work in the Mahoning Valley and bring their victims to safety,” said DeWine in 2016.
The valley has had a number of cases involving child predators and human traffickers.
In August 2018, a man named Ronald Hellman was arrested for allegedly operating a human trafficking operation for 15 years that involved at least 80 girls
Two months later, five people were charged with 104 crimes ranging from human trafficking to child pornography, and sexual assault.
Statewide, human trafficking has been on the rise. In 2018, Ohio had 219 reported human trafficking incidents, which is up from 81 in 2012, according to humantraffickinghotline.org.
The following men were arrested on charges of importuning, attempted unlawful sexual conduct with a minor and possession of criminal tools:
William Ragle, 25, Akron
David Kent, 24, Cranberry Twp., Pa.
Dennis Dabney II, 47, Salem
Ronald Woods III, 23, Austintown
Ommar Castro Diaz, 24, Cleveland
Steven Sutton, 44, Prospect, Pa.
Nicholas Sammartino, 20, Youngstown
Andrew Wirth, 30, Ravenna
Joel Kurz, 30, Boardman
Grant Geib, 24, Orville
Darrell Davis, 60, East Liverpool
Thomas Yakemovic III, 30, West Middlesex, Pa.
Timothy Leverknight, 53, Salem
Brian Underwood, 33, Youngstown
James McClalin III, 39, Hubbard
Charles Stumpf, 23, Akron
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