A coordinated effort by county and local law enforcement agencies nets seven arrests on charges of prostitution and drug-related activity.
It was a pre-planned crackdown, that started with agents soliciting prostitution suspects to the Route 46, I-80 corridor. The Mahoning Valley Law Enforcement Task Force and the FBI conducted this planned operation Wednesday, with the assistance of Austintown police and the Mahoning County Sheriff's office.
"This was a out-call operation, where we called women advertising as escorts that will come to a location that we had already," Jeff Solic says, commander with the Mahoning County Law Enforcement Task Force.
Seven people were busted after they showed up to an un-named location, most were contacted online. Four suspects appeared in Austintown Municipal Court Monday for their arraignments.
LaCarra Peterson, 28, entered a not guilty plea to a charge of prostitution.
Christina Gradillas' bond was set at $2,500. The 34-year-old Youngstown woman is charged with prostitution and drug-related charges, including felony possession of drugs charge. Maria Polas, 25, of Youngstown, pleaded not guilty to a prostitution charge and drug-related charges. Tiye Brightwell-Knox of Akron entered a not guilty plea a charge of prostitution.
Three suspects did not appear in court Monday afternoon. Christopher Sturgeon, 23, of Youngstown, is facing charges of promoting prostitution and drug-related charges. Cristin Urso, 32, of Warren, is charged with prostitution. Heather Upole, 29, of Youngstown, is charged with prostitution and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Of the six women that were arrested, three had corresponding drug charges, and getting drugs off the streets was the focus of Wednesday's initiative.
"It's been our experience that most of the women that we've arrested for these kinds of offenses in the past, have been heroin users, heroin being the biggest threat, I think right now to law enforcement and community," Solic says.
Solic hopes that for at least some of the suspects, facing legal punishment serves as a wake-up call to make changes in their lives.