YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – More than a dozen people were arrested in the latest sting, investigating child exploitation in Mahoning County.
Investigators have charged 16 suspects, and seven are in custody in what they’re calling “Operation Pedo-Cure III.”
Those who are not in custody are being placed on electronically-monitored house arrest and have been ordered to avoid any form of internet pornography while they’re on bond.
Those charged include the following:
— William Ragle, 25, Akron
— David Kent, 24, Cranberry Twp., Pa.
— Dennis Dabney II, 47, Salem
— Ronald Woods III, 23, Austintown
— Ommar Castro Diaz, 24, Cleveland
— Steven Sutton, 44, Prospect, Pa.
— Nicholas Sammartino, 20, Youngstown
— Andrew Wirth, 30, Ravenna
— Joel Kurz, 30, Boardman
— Grant Geib, 24, Orville
— Darrell Davis, 60, East Liverpool
— Thomas Yakemovic III, 30, West Middlesex, Pa.
— Timothy Leverknight, 53, Salem
— Brian Underwood, 33, Youngstown
— James McClalin III, 39, Hubbard
— Charles Stumpf, 23, Akron
The suspects were arrested over a course of three days — from Tuesday through Thursday.
They face charges of importuning, unlawful sexual conduct with a minor and possession of criminal tools.
Investigators say they tried to solicit minor boys and girls for sexual activity. They were really talking to undercover law enforcement, however, said Mahoning County Sheriff Jerry Greene.
“One of the messages I’ve said before is, if you’re online trolling or looking to victimize underage boys and girls, when you’re talking to somebody online, I want you to think there’s a great possibility it might be one of us,” he said.
The investigation was conducted by the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office, Ohio Attorney General’s Office, Mahoning Valley Human Trafficking Task Force, Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission and the Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
Other departments and agencies contributing in the sting include the Mahoning County Prosecutor’s Office, the Austintown Police Department, Ohio BCI, The Ohio State Highway Patrol, the Adult Parole Authority, the Warren Police Department, the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s ICAC Task Force, the Cortland Police Department, and the New Middletown Police Department.
It’s the third time that such a sting was conducted in a little over a year, resulting in more than two dozen arrests.
The Sheriff says these operations are extremely time and labor intensive.
“When we set this up to do, it takes months and months of planning, and then it takes months of chatting online,” Greene said.
Investigators add that they’re always looking for those who have been in trouble before.
“We know that we have some individuals that we were online chatting with that had a prior rape conviction and is a registered sex offender,” said BCI Agent Jim Ciotti.
“They’re not going away online, so we’re not going away,” Greene said.