BEAVER TWP., Ohio (WKBN) – Nine men are facing charges after an investigation into prostitution and sex trafficking in Mahoning County.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said one of the men who was arrested, 31-year-old James Webb, believed that he was meeting a juvenile for sex. Investigators say the Salem man exchanged messages with an undercover officer arranging for a sexual encounter with a 15-year-old girl. Investigators took him into custody when he arrived for the meeting in Beaver Township.
He’s charged with attempted unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, importuning, possession of criminal tools and attempted sexual imposition.
The following eight suspects were arrested after investigators said they responded to online advertisements placed by law enforcement. The suspects exchanged messages with the officer, arranging for a sexual encounter for-hire with an adult female, according to investigators:
- Gary Harmon, 46, of New Castle, Pa.
- Sohail Awan, 31, of Youngstown
- Charles Hart, 63, of Cochranton, Pa.
- Michael Canaday, 53, of East Palestine
- Christopher Jones, 42, of Berlin Township
- Ryan Grossman, 42, of Aliquippa, Pa.
- Joseph Geraci, 61, of Verona, Pa.
- Paul McHugh, II, 32, of Salem
They are each charged with soliciting after police said they met undercover officers in Beaver Township.
Hart and Canaday are also charged with possessing criminal tools, and Awan is charged with possession of a controlled substance and illegal use or possession of drug paraphernalia.
Grossman, Harmon, and McHugh were in court Tuesday evening. Grossman and McHugh pleaded no contest and Harmon pleaded not guilty.
All of the others entered pleas via their attorneys without appearing in court.
The sting operation was conducted Thursday by investigators with the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office, Ohio Attorney General DeWine’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation Crimes Against Children Unit, Austintown Police Department, Beaver Township Police Department, Ohio Adult Parole Authority, Mahoning County Emergency Management Administration, Mahoning County Prosecutor’s Office, New Middletown Police Department, Ohio Investigative Unit and Ohio State Highway Patrol.