Five arrested in human trafficking sweep

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 24, 2022

SOUTH POINT — Five men were arrested on Friday after the Southern Ohio Organized and Major Crimes Task Force participated in a statewide sweep in an effort to combat the demand for human trafficking this past weekend.

Lawrence County Sheriff Jeff Lawless said the operation took place after a South Point hotel, outside of village limits, was a target for  suspected drug activity and prostitution. “The Joint Task Force worked to see what prostitution and drug activity was going on, as well as human trafficking,” he said.

According to a press release from the Scioto County Sheriff’s Office, arrested were David Copas, 60, of West Portsmouth; Robert Harris, 49, of Jackson; Ray Vestal, 55, of Franklin Furnace; and Kline Adam Hobstetter, 72, of West Portsmouth.

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Copas, Harris, Vestal and Hobstetter were all charged with soliciting, a third-degree misdemeanor.

Also arrested was Jonathon Murphy, 25, of Portsmouth. Murphy was arrested for compelling prostitution, a second-degree felony.

All individuals were scheduled to appear in Portsmouth Municipal Court on Monday. Murphy is being held in the Scioto County Jail on a $25,000 bond.
The announcement of the sweep came from Ohio Attorney General David Yost, Scioto County Sheriff David Thoroughman, Portsmouth police chief Debby Brewer, New Boston police chief Carl Compton, Scioto County Prosecuting Attorney Shane Tieman, Pike County Sheriff Tracy Evans and Lawrence County Sheriff Jeff Lawless.

Lawless said he was “glad we could all get together in order to combat this.”

Thoroughman stated that the statewide sweep was named “Operation Time’s Up.” The Southern Ohio Organized and Major Crimes Task Force conducted undercover operations in both Scioto and Lawrence Counties.

On Friday, the task force conducted an operation in the City of Portsmouth focusing on arresting buyers of sex, commonly called johns. Saturday’s operation was conducted in Lawrence County and it focused on locating victims of human trafficking. The task force did locate six victims, which were offered medical and social services from nongovernmental agencies and nonprofits working alongside law enforcement. Sunday’s operation focused on adult offenders in search of minors with the intent to engage in sexual activity.

Thoroughman said he would like to thank the Lawrence County Major Drug Task Force, the Ohio Investigative Unit and the Ohio State Highway Patrol for their assistance in the Lawrence County Operation.

He advised that the operation has produced information that will lead to additional investigations which could result in other arrests. Murphy’s case will be forwarded to the Scioto County Prosecutor’s Office to be presented to the Scioto County Grand Jury.