8 arrested in human trafficking sting


By Joe Gorman

jgorman@vindy.com

LIBERTY

Township police Chief Toby Meloro said a human-trafficking sting is one of several proactive measures he wants to take at hotels in the township.

Meloro said that was one reason why he was assisted Thursday by the Mahoning Valley Human Trafficking Task Force, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation in a sting operation at one of the township’s hotels.

“We noticed some problems in some of our hotels, so we wanted to be more proactive,” Meloro said.

Eight people were lured there by officers who entered internet chat rooms posing as underage girls and setting up meetings with the men. When they showed up, they were arrested.

Charged with possession of criminal tools and solicitation were: Brian Evans III, 47, of Youngstown; Thomas Biroschak Jr., 29, of Canfield; Patrick Cassidy, 52, of Hubbard; Joseph Smith, 39, of Niles; Brian Stewart, 37, of Kinsman; Francis Cerech, 25, of Campbell; Terrance Flanagan, 51, of Niles; and Louis Stirk, 47, of Youngstown.

All eight were booked at the Liberty police station and issued a summons for their next court appearances.

Court records show Biroschak and Stirk have extensive traffic records. Stirk has a previous conviction for operating a vehicle impaired from Youngstown Municipal Court.

The task force conducted a similar sting in Trumbull County in April, when eight men were arrested there.

Attorney General Dave Yost said in a news release his office has zero tolerance for soliciting sex online.

“There’s no way for men to know whether the sex they’re buying is from a woman in slavery or an allegedly willing participant – or for that matter, an undercover cop,” Yost said. “Don’t buy sex in Ohio.”

“We will continue to hold those buying and selling accountable, along with these websites that has sex-trafficking advertisements,” Meloro said. “The Liberty Police Department will continue to have an online presence to ensure the safety of children and adults alike and deter predators from committing these acts.”

State Sen. Michael Rulli of Salem, R-33rd, said he was pleased to see Thursday’s sting. Rulli is a co-sponsor of Senate Bill 5, which would increase penalties for people involved in trafficking offenses.

“The Ohio Senate has made it a top priority to work with law-enforcement officials, victims-rights groups and the attorney general to do everything we can to stop the horrendous act of human trafficking in our state,” Rulli said in a news release. “While it is horrible to imagine these types of people are living in our community, it is great to see steps being taken to hold them accountable.”

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