Nine arrested in Mahoning County sex sting

YOUNGSTOWN — Nine men were arrested in Mahoning County last week as a result of an undercover investigation aimed at reducing sex trafficking, according to a news release from the Ohio Attorney General’s office.

Attorney General Mike DeWine noted in the report that human trafficking is being driven by an increasing demand of the sex trade.

“We want would-be purchasers of sex to remember that they could be arranging to meet with law enforcement,” DeWine said in the release.

All the arrests were made after undercover officers posing as either teen or adult females arranged meetings with the men in Beaver Township, the release states.

Jaime Webb, 31, of Salem, was arrested on felony charges of attempted unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, importuning and possession of criminal tools. Webb was also charged with a misdemeanor attempted sexual imposition charge.

The man exchanged messages with an undercover officer arranging for a sexual encounter with a 15-year-old girl, and investigators took him into custody when he voluntarily arrived for a meeting in Beaver Township, the reports states.

Mahoning County Court in Canfield records show Webb appeared for an initial hearing Friday, and his bond was set at $15,000. Webb entered no plea on the felonies, but pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor. His next court date is scheduled for Oct. 13 in Canfield. Jail records show Webb was released from jail Sunday.

The following were arrested after investigators said the men responded to online advertisements and then arranged for a sexual encounter for-hire with an adult female, the release states.

• Sohail Awan, 31, Boardman, pleaded not guilty to soliciting and possessing drug paraphernalia charges Friday at the Mahoning County Court in Canfield. He was released on $1,250 bond, and his next court date is scheduled Oct. 13, court records show.

• Michael Canaday, 53, East Palestine, was arraigned Tuesday in Canfield court on charges of soliciting and possessing criminal tools. He signed a waiver and will appear next in court Oct. 24, records show.

• Charles Hart, 63, Cochranton, Pa., Monday submitted a written plea of not guilty to the court on charges of soliciting and two counts of possessing criminal tools. His pre-trial was set for Oct. 24 in Canfield, court records show.

• Christopher Jones, 42, Berlin Center, on Monday filed a written plea of not guilty to the court on a charge of soliciting. Records show Jones’ next court date in Canfield will be Oct. 24.

• Joseph Geraci, 61, Verona, Pa.; Ryan Grossman, 42, Alliquippa, Pa.; Gary Harmon, 46, New Castle, Pa.; and Paul McHugh III, 32, Salem, each were charged with soliciting. Court records show their arraignments were scheduled for late Tuesday afternoon.

According to the release, lead investigators were the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation Crimes Against Children Unit. They were aided by the Austintown Police Department, Beaver Township Police Department, Ohio Adult Parole Authority, Mahoning County Emergency Management Administration, Mahoning County Prosecutor’s Office, New Middletown Police Department, Ohio Investigative Unit and the Ohio State Highway Patrol.