Criminal Justice

Lawyer is charged with operating sex-trafficking ring; woman says no one ever believed her

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A Portsmouth, Ohio, lawyer, who was formerly a city council member, was arrested Friday for allegedly running a sex-trafficking ring over a 15-year period.

Lawyer Michael Mearan, 74, is facing an 18-count indictment on charges of human trafficking, promoting and compelling prostitution, and engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, according to an announcement by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost and Scioto County Prosecutor Shane Tieman.

Mearan faces the possibility of more than 70 years in prison if he’s convicted. The Cincinnati Enquirer and WKRC have coverage.

“If Dante were around, he’d invent an eighth circle of hell for this guy,” Yost said of Mearan in an interview with the Cincinnati Enquirer.

“His victims were utterly powerless,” Yost said. “One of the problems with this case is everyone thought Mr. Mearan was untouchable. The victims were reluctant to come forward because they thought nothing would ever happen to him, but something could happen to them.”

The Cincinnati Enquirer published investigative stories on Mearan in March and September of 2019. Women who spoke to the newspaper alleged that Mearan promised them lenient sentences on drug charges if they agreed to prostitution.

Mearan denied the allegations during the Cincinnati Enquirer’s investigation and even asked the newspaper to define the words “sex trafficker.”

One of 10 women who spoke with the Cincinnati Enquirer, Linda Mills, 35, said she was trafficked since age 15 and became addicted to drugs. She began to cry when informed of Mearan’s arrest.

“No one’s ever believed me,” she told the Cincinnati Enquirer.

The Cincinnati Enquirer had obtained a federal wiretap affidavit that alleged that Mearan had been “known to law enforcement” in Portsmouth since the 1970s.

A website for Mearan’s law firm says he handles cases in bankruptcy, family law, personal injury and criminal law. Mearan “has created quite the reputation for himself during his years of practice,” the website says.

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