Cleveland Heights is a city in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, and an inner-ring suburb of Cleveland. The city’s population is roughly 45,000. The Cuyahoga County region has experienced a wide range of negative events associated with the local commercial sex market. For example,in March, 2018, a Cleveland Heights man appeared in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Thursday after a grand jury indicted him on involuntary manslaughter, human trafficking, promoting prostitution, trafficking in fentanyl and the club-drug molly and other charges. The investigation started when an 18-year-old woman who overdosed was dropped off at a local hospital. Surveillance video picked up the license plate of the car that dropped her off, and investigators tracked it to the defendant, and obtained a search warrant for his apartment where they found the drugs producing the overdose. Cleveland Heights police arrested the man on drug trafficking charges and continued their investigation. Two others involved in the same case were charged with human trafficking and promoting prostitution. The primary defendant had been released from prison after serving two years in prison on domestic violence and weapons charges, for brandishing a 9mm pistol and threatening to shoot the mother of his 10-day-old child.
Other examples include a case in December, 2018, when police responded to a report that threats had been made against a man who had met a woman on a Chinese social media cell phone app. The woman had suggested a date and place to meet, and then messaged the man via the app and said she was a prostitute and that she needed the man to speak to “her boss.” The boss called the sex buyer and instructed him to go to a local drugstore and buy a $200 gift card and send the card’s serial numbers as instructed, and when he had done so, was next instructed him to buy a $3,000 card. Then the man refused, he was threatened on the app and through text messages, with the boss stating he was a member of a violent crime organization and that he would send someone to kill him.
In addition to extortion and threats, there have been cases of HIV-positive prostituted persons continuing to sell sex, assaults of both prostituted persons and their clients, human trafficking of adults and children, and homicides that specifically targeted those engaged in prostitution. For example, in 2019, the FBI announced that convicted murderer Samuel Little confessed to murdering 93 women, and authorities have been able to confirm his connection to 60 of those killings. He was indicted in Hamilton County and Cuyahoga County for the murder of women, many of whom were involved in prostitution.
Consumer-level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking, and has therefore been targeted by local law enforcement agencies in their strategy for prevention and response. For example, in February, 2013, a man was arrested after propositioning his masseuse in Cleveland Heights and, then, lying to police about his name. The man had made an appointment with a massage therapist, and when she came into the massage room he was naked and holding a condom, asked her to put it on him, and offered her another $60 for sex. The massage therapist called the Cleveland Heights Police Department and officers soon found the man at a nearby intersection. Officers arrested him and charged him with soliciting prostitution, and he had two outstanding arrest warrants. The Cleveland Heights Police Department has collaborated with the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office and other agencies to conduct reverse stings in its efforts to combat prostitution and sex trafficking.
- Cleveland Heights Police Department
- Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office
- Cuyahoga County Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force
- Cuyahoga Regional Human Trafficking Task Force
Arrest and Shaming of Sex Buyer:
- https://patch.com/ohio/clevelandheights/man-charged-with-soliciting-prostitution (2013)
- https://patch.com/ohio/strongsville/naked-man-confuses-masseuse-for-prostitute (2013)
Web-Based Reverse Stings with Shaming:
- https://fox8.com/2019/07/11/authorities-to-release-more-info-on-sex-stings-during-all-star-week/ (2019)
- https://www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/July-2019/Human-Trafficking-Task-Forces-Arrest-49 (2019)
- https://www.morningjournal.com/local-suspects-arrested-in-human-trafficking-operations (2019)
- https://www.wytv.com/youngstown-men-arrested-in-child-sex-sting-during-all-star-game-in-cleveland/ (2019)
- https://highlandcountypress.com/Chillicothe-man-among-49-arrested-Human-Trafficking-Task-Force-operations-in-Cuyahoga-County (2019)
Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “Four Charged in Prostitution”, Lakeland Ledger, August 22 1974.
- “Man Suspected of Using Minors in Sex Ring”, Cleveland Plain Dealer, March 29 2001.
- “Couple Accused of Running Prostitution Ring”, Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 12 2002.
- “Law & Order; Cleveland; Prostitution Ring Alleged”, Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 13 2002.
- “Girl Flees Captors; Sex Ring Busted Teen Was Abducted outside Tower City”, Cleveland Plain Dealer, January 15 2003.
- “Pair Imprisoned for Running Teen-Prostitution Ring”, Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 9 2007.
- “The Cleveland Backpage Report: An Analysis of Human Trafficking and the Online Commercial Sex Industry in Northeast Ohio”, Report, Operation Broken Silence & The Imagine Foundation, 2011.
- “Investigator: 15-Year-Old Saved from Sex Ring”, NBC/WKYC-TV 3, January 20 2012.
- “Signs of Human Trafficking Can Stay Hidden in Plain Sight”, Cleveland Plain Dealer, February 12 2012.
- “Cleveland Woman Sentenced to 6 Years for Kidnapping, Sexual Battery, Prostitution of a Minor”, Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 30 2012.
- “Cleveland Woman Sentenced for Sex Trafficking Ring Involving Children”, CBS/WOIO-TV 19, November 29 2012.
- “Busted for Prostituting 17-Year-Old Girl”, CBS/WOIO-TV 19, December 31 2012.
- “Teenage Girls Were ‘Virtual Prisoners’ in Elyria House; Man Charged with Forcing Victims into Drugs, Prostitution”, Plain Dealer, May 10 2013.
- “Ohio Woman Accused of Forcing Teens to Pay Off Drug Debt with Prostitution Enters Guilty Plea”, Columbus Republic, September 21 2013.
- “Edison Man Allegedly Enslaved Women in High-Priced Prostitution Ring”, NJToday.com, November 12 2013.
- “Edison Man Indicted in Alleged Prostitution Ring”, Bergen Record, November 12 2013.
- “Three Men Accused of Prostitution, Sex Charges Involving Missing Berea Teen”, Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 17 2014.
- “Man Pleads Guilty to Using Heroin to Control Women in Prostitution Ring,” FOX/WJW-TV 8, December 8 2014.
- “3 Indicted for Alleged Sex Trafficking of Minors in Sacramento, Solano Counties,” Sacramento Bee, September 11 2015.
- “Man Interrupts Trial to Plead Guilty to Human Trafficking, Drug Trafficking,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 14 2015.
- https://www.wkyc.com/article/news/gina-dejesus-highlights-human-trafficking-in-cleveland-walk-for-freedom (2018)
- https://www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/2017 Human Trafficking Commission Report OHIO (2018)
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “Cleveland to Get Tough on Prostitutes”, Baltimore Afro-American, March 21 1970.
- “Arrest 6 in Prostitution Ring Sweep”, Gettysburg Times, April 12 1972.
- “Prostitutes Active Despite Police Unit”, Portsmouth Times, July 16 1975.
- “Women Sue Policeman Who Jailed Them on Prostitution Charge”, Lakeland Ledger, September 2 1981.
- “Prostitutes’ Tips Lead to Call-Girl Ring”, Akron Beacon Journal, January 22 1989.
- “Browns Warn League about Prostitution Investigation”, Gainesville Sun, February 6 1989.
- “Cleveland City Councilman Eugene Miller to Propose Tougher Penalties for Prostitution”, Cleveland Plain Dealer, September 27 2013.
- “Proposed Tougher Penalties for Prostitution in Cleveland Likely to See Debate at City Council Safety Committee Meeting”, Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 3 2013.
- https://www.cleveland.com/court-justice/investigators_track_womans_fatal overdose prostitution ring (2018)
Documented Violence against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:
- “Nightmare Hid in City Block Short on Dreams”, NBC News, November 4 2009.
- “11 Bodies, One House of Horrors: Why Cleveland Women Were ‘Invisible’”, CNN, October 26 2010.
- “The Other Serial Killer”, Cleveland Magazine, July 2012.
- https://lawandcrime.com/crazy/prosecutors-now-say-they-corroborated-serial-killers-link-to-deaths-of-60-women/ (2019)
- https://cuyahogacounty.us/cuyahoga-county-news-now/news-detail/cuyahoga-county-news-now/2018/01/11/human-trafficking-what-you-need-to-know (2018)
- https://www.news5cleveland.com/news/local-news/oh-summit/new-rise-program-gives-hope-to-human-trafficking-victims (2019)