SCIOTO COUNTY, Ohio (FOX19) - A Portsmouth lawyer and former city council member has been indicted on 18 felony counts related to an alleged sex trafficking ring in southern Ohio, Attorney General Dave Yost said in a statement Friday.
The indictment says Michael Mearan, 74, engaged in sex trafficking from 2003-2018, with six victims being involved.
The charges include three counts of trafficking in persons, five counts of compelling prostitution, win counts of promoting prostitution and one count of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity.
Mearan faces more than 70 years in prison if convicted, Yost says.
Mearan’s case is being prosecuted as part of Yost’s Human Trafficking Initiative and Special Prosecutions Section.
FOX19 NOW previously reported Mearan was under state investigated for actions linked to prostitution, sex trafficking and drugs, according to a 2015 affidavit filed under seal with the Southern District of Ohio.
The affidavit shows Mearan was suspected of supplying young female prostitutes with drugs in exchange for, and as an incentive to participate in, acts of prostitution.
It also says some of the women claimed they were sent as far as New York, New Jersey, Florida and Nevada for paid sexual encounters.
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According to the affidavit, Mearan was connected to more than two dozen women who worked for him as prostitutes, including one who is seven-years missing and another found dead of “multiple traumas.”
Mearan has been known to law enforcement in Portsmouth for more than 40 years and has been indirectly tied to multiple prior FBI investigations into human trafficking, extortion, violent gangs and “White Slave Trafficking,” the affidavit reads.
Agents with the Ohio Bureau of Investigation raided Mearan’s home, which also serves as his office, in May. Yost was on hand for the raid.
Police detectives began looking into Mearan in late 2018, about the same time our news partners at the Cincinnati Enquirer began reporting on rumors of sex trafficking in the southern Ohio city.
Ten women previously told The Enquirer they had worked as prostitutes for Mearan, with several of the women saying they had traveled to numerous states to have sex at his behest over the last two decades. Records show that Mearan had represented six of the women facing drug charges.
The women also told The Enquirer that Mearan’s operation included some of the most powerful men in Scioto County as customers and participants.
One said she had slept with a former police chief for money.