Lake County, OH

Tactics Used

Auto Seizure
Buyer Arrests
Community Service
Employment Loss
Identity Disclosure
IT Based Tactics
John School
License Suspension
Neighborhood Action
Public Education
Reverse Stings
SOAP Orders
Web Stings

Lake County is a county of about 232,000 residents in northeast Ohio, located east of Cleveland on the southern shore of Lake Erie. The county seat is Painesville. Prostitution and sex trafficking have been documented in the county. For example, in September 2013, a 64-year-old man was arrested in Painsville for allegedly trying to solicit sexual abuse for money from a child.

To address these problems, reverse stings have been conducted in the county. In February 2013, Willoughby Police Department officers targeted sex buyers for arrest by conducting a web-based reverse sting. Officers placed an online ad featuring a 20-year-old woman offering prostitution and arrested 12 men who responded and appeared at a hotel to buy sex. The men were between 26 and 64 years of age and were from cities like Beachwood, Rocky River, North Royalton, Hudson, and Mentor, to name a few. All were charged with misdemeanor solicitation. The names, ages, and mugshots of the men arrested were publicly released in the weeks following the operation.

In February 2023, the Eastlake City Council President was one of six men charged with soliciting for sex following a human trafficking sting in Northeast Ohio. The operation was coordinated by the Ohio Attorney General’s Northeast Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force, Wickliffe Police, and Lake County Sheriff’s deputies. Law enforcement agents posed as prostituted persons advertising on websites and sharing their location, leading to eventual arrests at a hotel in Wickliffe. Under Ohio Revised Code, the charge of solicitation ranges from a first-degree misdemeanor to a fourth-degree felony if the person solicited is younger than 16. A statement released from Attorney General Dave Yost explained, “The point of our task forces is to send a message to those who buy and sell human beings: We’re coming for you, we’re going to bust you and make sure everybody knows what you did. Don’t buy sex in Ohio!” The statement also gave special thanks to the Lake County Sheriff, “whose office recently joined this task force and has hit the ground running.” The arrested sex buyers had their photos and identities released to the press. The task force also identified four potential victims of sex trafficking, who were offered social services. The Lake County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy was quoted in the press release as follows:

“The Lake County Sheriff’s Office is proud to be part of the Northeast Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force and proud of the collaborative effort of all the involved agencies. If even one victim of human trafficking can be identified and helped, then the operation is a success and worth the effort. We will continue to work to help identify those who are taking advantage of these victims and bring them to justice.”

The task force is led by the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department and includes the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations, Cleveland Police Department, MetroHealth Police Department, East Cleveland Police Department, Ohio Investigative Unit, Ashtabula County Sheriff’s Office, and the Lake County Sheriff’s Office.

Key Partners

  • Lake County Sheriff’s Office
  • Wickliffe Police Department
  • Ohio Attorney General’s Northeast Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force
    • Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department
    • Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office
    • U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations
    • Cleveland Police Department
    • MetroHealth Police Department
    • East Cleveland Police Department
    • Ohio Investigative Unit
    • Ashtabula County Sheriff’s Office
    • Lake County Sheriff’s Office
  • Painesville Police Department
  • Willoughby Police Department
State Ohio
Type County
Population 232023
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