Over the last few months, while many of us were preoccupied with politics and the pandemic, U.S. Marshals bravely carried out a series of nationwide operations that rescued hundreds of human trafficking victims in at least seven states. These victimized women, runaway youngsters and children had been enslaved into a dangerous and deadly lifestyle by criminals who used their captives’ bodies to enrich themselves.
I’m betting you probably didn’t hear much about this. In a time when its popular to bash anyone with a badge, teams of Marshals quietly joined with dozens of other federal, state and local law enforcement officers to liberate these lost souls.
Not only were victims saved during these sweeps, but their captors were also arrested and charged with multiple felonies that could mean years in prison. These raids, with names such as “Operation Not Forgotten” and “Operation Patriot,” were carried out in places you would think were relatively safe.
In Ohio — primarily in Toledo, Cleveland and Columbus — “Operation Autumn Hope” recently liberated 109 trafficking survivors, including 76 children. Among the 179 suspects arrested were both captors and johns looking to buy sex, often with a minor. That operation followed the August rescue of another 25 children under the age of 18.
In the same state, but not connected to the Marshals’ operations, a former Portsmouth city councilman and attorney was recently arrested and charged with 18 felony counts of promoting and compelling the prostitution of nearly 30 women, several of whom faced drug charges and came to him seeking legal representation. Michael Mearan, 74, now faces up to 70 years in prison.
The Cincinnati Enquirer published an investigation into Mearan’s activities last year reporting that, for decades, he had supplied his young female clients with drugs “in exchange for and as an incentive to participate in acts of prostitution.” One woman who worked for Mearan was found dead of “multiple traumas” in 2013. Another woman has been missing since that same year…