Ohio top 5 for human trafficking cases, organization says

The Human Trafficking Hotline says the State of Ohio reported the fifth most human trafficking cases in their most recent data from 2019.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A high school teacher is accused of paying a 16-year-old girl he met online for sex. The Ohio Attorney General’s Office says the Columbus City Schools teacher found the teen through an online ad.

Robert Pea, a 60-year-old Northland High School teacher, is charged with one count of compelling prostitution. The Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force says their investigation began about a month ago after they received a tip.

“We’ve identified a few targets who are trafficking her. But during our investigation, we uncovered that one of the sex fires was the Columbus City School teacher. So as soon as we realized that he was engaging in sex with a minor, we wanted to get him arrested, so we can get them away from the kids,” said Sgt. Dana Hess, Director, Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force.

Records show Pea found the teenager through an online ad, arranged through text messages to meet her at a hotel, and paid her $80.

“While it’s a horrific story it’s not an uncommon one,” said Courtney Schmackers, Executive Director, She Has A Name.

She Has A Name, a group that fights human trafficking, says human trafficking takes a lot of forms, but simply put is an exploitation of a vulnerability, and in Ohio, is a big problem.

The latest data from the Human Trafficking Hotline shows in 2019 the state of Ohio had the fifth-highest number of cases reported.

The Human Trafficking Institute in 2020 had Ohio as the second-highest state when it comes to new offenders.

“Basic things to look out for would be not being able to speak to that individual alone, a child under the age of 18 that’s engaging in any kind of sex for hire, and it doesn’t have to be for money, it could be an exchange for anything of value,” said Schmackers.

She Has A Name says the biggest thing to look out for, when it comes to children, is not big public places, but what kids are doing online. Many times the victim and trafficker know each other.

A spokesperson for Columbus City Schools declined to give 10TV a statement. But they do say Pea will be without pay while incarcerated.

Pea is currently at the Franklin County Jail, he’s expected in court Thursday morning.

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