PORTSMOUTH, Ohio – A former city councilman and practicing defense attorney rumored to be a player in a sex trafficking ring was detained by police while officials searched his home Wednesday morning
The streets surrounding Michael Mearan's home near the Scioto County Courthouse were blocked by police vehicles and flooded with police personnel.
Mearan sat on his front porch while police searched his home, then drove from the scene. Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost accompanied police.
Attempts to reach Mearan for comment were unsuccessful.
Portsmouth police detectives began looking into Mearan in late 2018, about the same time the Enquirer began reporting on rumors of sex trafficking in this southern Ohio city.
After the Enquirer published the results of its investigation in March, agents with the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation became involved.
The prosecution is handled by Angela Canepa at the state attorney general’s office of special prosecutions.
Ten women said they worked as prostitutes for Mearan, and several of them said they traveled to numerous states to have money for sex at his behest.
Trapped and trafficked: Officials in small Ohio town accused of sex trafficking underage girls
The women told the Enquirer that Mearan’s operation included some of the most powerful men in Scioto County as customers and participants. One said she slept with a former police chief for money.
Three others said they were approached by Mearan or others to perform sexual favors for now-retired Scioto County Common Pleas Court Judge William Marshall in exchange for lighter sentences in their criminal cases.
Marshall was suspended from practicing law after interfering in his daughter’s speeding ticket case. His family tried to take control of his personal affairs in court, saying he was a severe alcoholic and had gone to work as a judge while drunk.
That opened an investigation by the Ohio Public Defender’s office into Marshall’s conduct and whether the results in as many as 3,000 criminal cases he oversaw should be reexamined.
Drugs, sex trafficking and missing women: Small Ohio town haunted by dark allegations
The state's investigation reflects what was initially outlined in a sealed federal wiretap affidavit issued as part of a separate Drug Enforcement Administration investigation several years ago.
That document, obtained by the Enquirer in early 2018, includes accounts of Mearan sending women to Florida and other states to have sex for money.
That investigation resulted in eight drug convictions, but Mearan was not charged. The DEA said it handed any notes on Mearan over to the FBI, and it is not clear what happened after that.
The family of Megan Lancaster, a Portsmouth prostitute who went missing in 2013, has worked for years to get answers about her disappearance, including whether Mearan is connected.
“We hope that it brings answers and justice to all the girls, whether he’s trafficked them or had a past with them at all,” Kadie Lancaster, Megan's sister-in-law, said. "Of course, we pray to God this brings Megan home.”
If you or someone you know needs help:
National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888
Drug Helpline: 1-888-633-3239
This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Sex trafficking: Home of former Portsmouth, Ohio, councilman raided