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Largest human trafficking sting in Ohio history nets 161 arrests, 51 potential victims and 10 missing children

 Attorney General Dave Yost speaks at the press conference announcing the results of Operation Ohio Knows.
Dan Konik
Statehouse News Bureau
Attorney General Dave Yost speaks at the press conference announcing the results of Operation Ohio Knows.

For the third year, law enforcement around Ohio conducted a human trafficking sting. And this time it turned out to be the largest one in state history, Operation Ohio Knows.

Republican Attorney General Dave Yost said 51 potential human trafficking victims were helped and 161 men were arrested in 17 communities, including Elyria City Council Member Mark Jessie, a firefighter, a teacher and a professor.

“We actually arrested a pilot who makes over $200,000, but not only was purchasing sex, but he haggled and got the price down to $15. We also arrested a guy with a 2-year-old in the car," Yost said at a press conference announcing the results of the sting.

Three men arrested were trying to buy sex from someone they thought was a minor.

Yost said this is the first time the sting has been conducted when the crime of buying sex is more severe than the penalty for trying to sell sex, so the focus of this sting was on arresting potential “johns.”

“We want to make the point that you’re not just going out there on a private thing between two consenting adults. You’re taking the risk that that person is being trafficked," Yost said.

Fifty men and women offering to sell sex were also arrested. Yost says as a former prosecutor, he used to think those trying to sell sex should be arrested. He says some arrests do happen and can help get victims into treatment, but he’s changed his stance a bit.

“As I’ve gotten to know survivors that didn’t come through the system or came through the system and had difficulties, I’ve realized it’s a much more nuanced conversation," Yost said. "But I think everybody in the conversation that’s actually familiar with this work recognizes that there are many, many roads to recovery and they don’t all look alike.”

Yost said 10 missing children were also found by the U.S. Marshals Service.

More than 100 people were arrested in similar statewide stings in 2020 and in 2019.
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