Lancaster, 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

Lancaster is a city in south central Ohio, located in Fairfield County near the Hocking River, about 33 miles southeast of Columbus and 38 miles southwest of Zanesville. It is the government seat of Fairfield County and has a population of approximately 41,000 residents. Instances of prostitution and sex trafficking have been well-documented in the city and surrounding areas. This activity and its ancillary crimes have generated residential complaints to local law enforcement. For example, in 2016, the Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force, which is a part of the Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission within the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, conducted an investigation after receiving several tips regarding an alleged sex trafficking ring in the area. The investigation found that the four individuals had allegedly trafficked nearly a dozen women over a two-year period through the use of online advertising. The group allegedly targeted women who were addicted to heroin. As a result of the investigation, four individuals were arrested on numerous felony charges including the following: trafficking in persons — commercial sex acts, engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, compelling prostitution, and promoting prostitution. In addition, one of the offenders was also indicted on money laundering charges. A fifth suspect indicted in the investigation was arrested on charges of possession of heroin and aggravated possession of drugs. Authorities with the Fairfield County Sheriff’s Office assisted the Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force with the arrests. The case was prosecuted by the office of Franklin County Prosecutor.

The Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force is a coalition of local, county, state and federal agencies from the Columbus Division of Police, Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations, Delaware County Sheriff’s Office, Powell Police Department, Ohio State Highway Patrol, Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office, and the Delaware County Prosecutor’s Office. The task force works in cooperation with the Salvation Army of Central Ohio, which provides assistance to human trafficking victims.

Efforts to reduce instances of prostitution and sex trafficking by targeting individuals seeking to purchase commercial sex have been deployed in the city. For example, in November 2021, the Fairfield County Sheriff’s Office announced the arrest of 23 men in a web-based reverse sting operation focused on apprehending sex buyers and sex traffickers. According to the sheriff’s office, the stings were held on Nov. 5 and Nov. 12 in the cities of Lancaster and Pickerington. The 23 arrested sex buyers were charged with engaging in prostitution, a first-degree misdemeanor, and some of them faced additional drug and weapons charges. The sheriff’s office said it confiscated four firearms during the arrests. The suspects range in age from 22 to 67-years-old. Nine of the suspects were residents of Columbus. The operations were conducted with the assistance of the Ohio Attorney General’s Human Trafficking Task Force. In a statement about the stings, the sheriff’s office wrote:

“These operations, referred to as ‘John Stings,’ with Detectives from the Investigations Bureau working in undercover assignments, targets those individuals who perpetuate the demand for prostitution and human trafficking.”

Sex buyers have also been apprehended through alternative investigations or residential complaints to local law enforcement. For example, on May 29, 2019, a Lancaster Grand Jury indicted a 56-year-old man on charges of 2907.22(A)(4), 2907.22(B): Promoting Prostitution, a felony of the fourth degree (2 Counts) and 2923.24(A), 2923.24(C): Possessing Criminal Tools, a felony of the fifth degree. According to reports, the offender attempted to solicit two undercover female officers for sex. He was allegedly running a brothel from his residence in the Village of Thurston. Police arrested the offender at an undisclosed location in Lancaster. The offender was charged with two counts of promoting prostitution, but investigators believe up to 50 women could have been victimized. His identity and image were included in reports by local media outlets.

Key Sources

Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Sex Buyer Arrest:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

State Ohio
Type City
Population 40763
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