CANFIELD, Ohio (WKBN) – The offenders who find themselves caught in a sting by local Human Trafficking Task Force agents face a punishment lasting years longer than any prison sentence they might receive.
There’s been a slow parade of suspects and photo boards showing pictures of those arrested, but a number of the men caught in local human trafficking stings over the past two years were never sent to prison.
“Many times the sentences aren’t as stiff as we may like, but I understand why,” said Mahoning County Sheriff Jerry Greene.
In each case, police say the suspects were arrested after showing up at a designated location, thinking they would be meeting an underage child for sex.
However, since the defendants were actually chatting online with undercover agents, the charges and penalties are less severe than if real children were involved.
The convicted men are still labeled as sex offenders who have to file their addresses with law enforcement wherever they live.
“It gives us the ability to track them once they have to register,” said Greene.
Of the 16 men arrested last May, eight entered guilty pleas and were sentenced. Three of them were placed on probation and the rest were sent to prison for anywhere from six to 18 months.
Last week, Andrew Wirth of Ravenna tried to withdraw his guilty plea after learning prosecutors were no longer recommending probation.
Instead, they wanted a 30-month maximum sentence after Wirth was arrested a month ago trying to meet another underage child.
“Unfortunately, there’s a lot of people out there that are, you know, looking to victimize people, so yeah, we’re not going anywhere,” Greene said.
The sheriff hopes that will be a big deterrent in at least some cases.