CLEVELAND — The FOX 8 I-TEAM is exposing suspected predators accused of trying to meet underage teens for sex after dozens of people were arrested in sex sting carried out during MLB All-Star Week.
Cuyahoga County Prosecutors and the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force led Operation Triple Play while most people were paying attention to the All-Star Weekend festivities. Investigators hauled in 28 people they say chatted on-line trying to arrange meetings with teens for sex.
Thursday, the I-TEAM visited homes of the suspected predators to question them about what happened.
We found one suspect, who was out of jail on bond, on Cleveland’s west side.
He said, “I went to meet some chick, and she said she was fifteen. I don’t know. ”
When the I-TEAM asked, ‘She said she was 15?’ He added, “It was afterwards. It was after the fact. Her profile said she was 29. But man, I don’t want to be on TV.”
At another home a suspect answered the door asking , “Can I help you?” and when we started to ask about the sting, he slammed the door.
Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Carl Sullivan explained how the sting worked.
Undercover agents posed as teens and first struck up an online relationship with adults.
“We would have these people come to the house,” Sullivan said. “And instead of having sex with what they thought was a thirteen to fifteen-year-old girl, our investigators were there to arrest them.”
Body camera video obtained by the I-TEAM shows Newburgh Heights Police and federal agents chasing down one suspect who tried to run away after realizing he’d been set up.
Cell phone video captured by a witness shows one suspect at the door getting arrested saying, “I’m not going to be in any trouble am I? I didn’t want anything to do with the kids.”
While investigators arrested 28 in that sting, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said 21 other adults also ended up caught in a separate sting trying to buy sex around hotels. That operation was aimed at trying to fight human trafficking.
Initial charges have been filed and more may be added later by a grand jury.
Those trying to meet teens could face years in prison and those arrested trying to buy sex in the prostitution bust will likely face little more than a fine.
Investigators say those arrested for trying to meet kids ranged in age from their 20s to their 60s.. Many are from the immediate area surrounding Cleveland, however some came in from other areas such as Youngstown. At least one already is a convicted sex offender.