SCIOTO COUNTY, Ohio (FOX19) - The Ohio Attorney General’s Office is turning to the public for help as it continues to investigate a Portsmouth attorney and former elected official.
The AG’s Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation is asking anyone “with information about suspicious activity involving Michael Mearan” to call 1-855-BCI-OHIO (855-224-6446) or file a tip anonymously online
Last week, BCI assisted local authorities conduct a search of Mearan’s office near the Scioto County Courthouse, according to a news release.
It’s part of an ongoing investigation with Portsmouth police after reports he is a key player in a sex trafficking ring, FOX19 NOW has confirmed.
Details about the case are not being released due to the ongoing probe, and the search warrant is sealed.
In late 2018, the Cincinnati Enquirer investigated rumors of Mearan being involved in the trafficking of women for sexual purposes and talked to women who claimed they were prostituted to officials in return for a number of things including money and reduced sentences in criminal cases.
BCI began investigating the case and reflects what was initially outlined in a sealed federal wiretap affidavit issued as part of a separate Drug Enforcement Administration investigation several years ago, according to the Enquirer.
That document, obtained by FOX19 NOW, includes accounts of Mearan sending women to Florida and other states to have sex for money.
That investigation resulted in eight drug convictions, but Mearan tells FOX19 NOW he was never charged.
Original Enquirer report: Trapped and trafficked: One town's dark secret
They also reported the Ohio Attorney General’s Office will lead the possible prosecution of those involved in the alleged operation.
Earlier this year, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced his office would focus on stopping sex trafficking in and through Ohio.
The Human Trafficking Initiative works to end labor and sex trafficking in the state by building awareness, empowering residents to take action in their communities, helping victims and ensuring that traffickers and johns are brought to justice, his office said in a January news release.
“Our job together is to build roads — a highway of hope, a right-of-way to redemption ... a freeway to freedom,” Yost said at the inaugural Human Trafficking Summit called Hope in Action.
“Our promise," he said, "is that we will build that road and make sure they need never walk it alone.”
Yost also has announced legislative initiatives targeting human trafficking.
The proposed legislation separates the buying and selling of sex into different criminal offenses, establishes a criminal offense for knowingly receiving proceeds from a prostitute and creates a public registry for arrests of Johns, pimps and traffickers.
“Basic economics works under the premise of supply and demand – and right now we have a demand problem in Ohio,” Yost said in a January news release.
“Our goal is to reduce the demand and in return rescue victims from this modern-day slavery. Making that a reality starts by unmasking and penalizing those who buy sex or profit from human trafficking.”