Toledo, OH

Tactics Used

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

Toledo is a city of approximately 270,000 residents, located along the northwestern border of Ohio in Lucas County. Prostitution and sex trafficking have been identified by law enforcement as substantial problems in the city. This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates have resulted in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. Among the crimes associated with the local commercial sex market is the homicide of prostituted persons. For example, in 2000, a Toledo man was found guilty of the murder of a prostituted woman and the rape of another. In 2006, a Toledo serial killer admitted to killing five prostituted women in and around the city.

In response to the wide range of concerns about the local consequences of commercial sex, the Toledo Police Department has constructed an aggressive and comprehensive strategy that incorporates tactics targeting demand. City police were among the first in the country to implement the use of street-level reverse stings in 1975; operations have been routinely conducted, using one or more undercover female officers as decoys. As sex buyers attempt to solicit sex from undercover officers, they are apprehended by police. Since 1991, arrested sex buyers may have their vehicles seized and impounded. In addition, as a warning to other potential sex buyers, the TPD may also release arrestees’ names and other identifying information to the local media.

Loss of employment is another consequence of buying sex that has occurred in the city. For example, in April 2020, a Toledo-based plastic surgeon pled guilty to a number of charges related to drugging and raping prostituted women. According to a court filing in U.S. District Court, an investigation into the man began in January 2019 alleging that he improperly drugged and performed sex acts on an adult female high-end “escort” in 2016 while he was in Los Angeles. Court records also stated that the man traveled to medical conferences in large urban areas including Chicago in March and April 2013, Cleveland in April 2013, Miami/Ft. Lauderdale in June 2015 and July 2019, Los Angeles in September 2016, and various other dates in San Francisco and Detroit. The man would often stay at centrally located hotels in these cities and hire prostituted women in the area. He would then administer incapacitating drugs to his victims and perform sexual acts of violence without their consent. At the time of his arrest in 2020, the man was a board-certified plastic surgeon and medical doctor licensed by the State of Ohio and Michigan, and owned and practiced at Artisan Cosmetic & Reconstructive Surgery in Toledo. Employees at his office found recordings on SD cards showing him engaging in sex with motionless women, items used for sex, and narcotics. Prosecutors said they had recordings from more than 20 different unconscious victims. After his felony convictions, his hospital privileges and medical licenses were revoked.

In January 2022, a former St. Michael the Archangel pastor who had been federally charged with sex trafficking of children and adults faced a plea agreement deadline. The man was charged with two counts of sex trafficking of an adult by force, fraud, and coercion, two counts of sex trafficking of a minor by force, fraud, or coercion, and one count of sex trafficking of a minor. The man had been indicted in October 2020. He was taken into federal custody in August 2020 by the Northwest Ohio Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force. The alleged offenses involve two former students of Catholic schools in Toledo over a period of years. The man was alleged to have preyed upon boys, and later men, who needed money for their drug addictions. From about 1999 to 2006 the priest allegedly recruited, enticed, harbored, transported, or obtained a minor teen victim, knowing he would be caused to engage in a commercial sex act. From about 2017 to 2020, when that same victim was an adult, the man was alleged to have caused him to engage in a commercial sex act by force, fraud, or coercion. Two additional counts of sex trafficking of a minor by force, fraud, or coercion involved a different victim. One count was alleged to have occurred from about June 2009 to August 2010 when the victim was about 15-16 years old. The other count was alleged to have occurred with the same victim from about June 2010 to June 2011. A remaining count of sex trafficking of an adult by force, fraud, or coercion was alleged to have occurred from about June 2015 to January 2020, involving a third victim.

TPD anti-prostitution initiatives have uncovered several sex trafficking networks operating in the city. For example, in 2005, federal agents identified 77 young women and girls from the Toledo area who had been transported to Pennsylvania and other states for purposes of prostitution. Reports have identified the city as the 3rd largest hub for domestic minor sex trafficking in the nation. To address the issue, the Toledo Health Department has collaborated with the FBI to train public servants to better identify potential trafficking victims when and if they appear in the city’s correctional and healthcare facilities. In late 2012, Representative Teresa Fedor of Toledo sponsored and successfully passed the Safe Harbor Act in the Ohio House of Representatives, effectively creating “a two-tier system offering differing penalties and burden of proof, depending on the age of the trafficked person” for those attempting to sexually exploit minors. The legislation also established sex trafficking as “a stand-alone, second-degree felony… that carries a potential prison sentence of eight years.”

John School

Local sex trafficking cases helped spur the creation of a “john school” program in 2010. Led by the Lucas County Human Trafficking Coalition, the Prostitution Offender Program of Lucas County was a diversion program limited to sex buyers without prior prostitution-related offenses. In exchange for completing the daylong course, which included presentations from local law enforcement, public health officials, and formerly prostituted women, first-time offenders could have their cases sealed. The program began in 2013, and as of 2018, the john school was still operating and was named “First Offender Prostitution Program – Lucas County.” The fee paid by arrested sex buyers was $300, and the program incurred no cost to taxpayers. Participants were required to attend a one-time class and remain free from reoffending for one year in order to receive a lesser penalty. Men who attended were taught the following:

• Health risks associated with prostitution
• Connection between commercial sex and sex trafficking
• Legal consequences
• Encouraged to explore the psycho-social reasons they paid for sex

Community Service

In response to a survey conducted in 2021 by the NCOSE team for a National Institute of Justice grant to update and expand Demand Forum (Grant #2020-75-CX-0011), representatives from the Toledo Police Department reported that they have also used community service as a consequence for convicted sex buyers.

Key Sources

National Assessment (2012)

National Assessment II (2021)

John School:

Reverse Stings:

Web Stings:

Identity Disclosure:

Neighborhood Action:

Auto Seizure:

Employment Loss of Sex Buyer:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

State Ohio
Type City
Population 275116
Location
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