Mike Mearan victims must speak up. That’s the message from Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost to victims of Michael “Mike” Mearan.
The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation raided Mearan’s Portsmouth home on Wednesday. Mearan, an attorney and former Portsmouth City Councilman, was detained in handcuffs while boxes were removed from his home.
The BCI is now asking anyone who may have been a victim of Mearan’s or have any information about suspicious activities to speak out
The AG isn’t saying what evidence the search of Mearan’s home turned up regarding the sex-trafficking investigation, only that it is still ongoing. But the BCI took the unusual step of asking for victims and witnesses to speak up.
Anyone with information about Michael Mearan’s suspicious activity can call 1-855-BCI-OHIO (855-224-6446) or file a tip anonymously online.
Human trafficking expert Rhiannon Gill says that’s important because many victims are too afraid to come forward. “They are fearful that law enforcement and others have been involved in the innermost workings of this local trafficking network and that they don’t feel safe or believed by those they may report it to. They need to know that there are people who want to help and want to see them get justice for the wrongs that have been done to them.”
Some victims are afraid because they supported their drug habits by performing sex acts. Gill says they shouldn’t be afraid to speak up. “I also believe that many of them are fearful that they may face criminal charges because of what they may have done and are unaware of the many laws and programs that will protect them.”
Gill said many victims might not realize they even are victims. “They need to know that when someone uses force, fraud, or coercion that it makes them a trafficking victim.”
The staff at SCDN understands why victims are afraid. Both publisher Mark Craycraft and reporter Nikki Blakenship faced harassment while first investigating this story three years ago. When news of the most recent raid broke online, our servers came under attack, temporarily knocking us offline.
Rhiannon Gill urged victims to speak up. “To those who have been victims of human trafficking, please know you are survivors, you are valued, and you are believed.”
In addition to the BCI’s number, victims can also call Southern Ohio Sexual Assault Treatment Center 740-353-0660 or 740-355-3528.
SCDN will continue its team coverage of this important issue.
In all criminal investigations, innocence is presumed unless guilt is proven in a court of law.