A Highland Heights man was arrested Sept. 30 in Elyria during a statewide human trafficking sting, Operation Ohio Knows. One-hundred-and-sixty-one individuals were arrested across Northeast Ohio between Sept. 24 and Oct. 4, including in Portage, Summit and Lorain counties.

Along with 13 other individuals, Elyria police arrested Ronald Friedberg, 56, for solicitation. Friedberg is a partner at the Woodmere law firm Meyers, Roman, Friedberg & Lewis. He is also the chair, surety and insurance, and is a business litigator and trial attorney that focuses on construction, surety, contract, real estate, employment and other business disputes, according to Meyers, Roman, Friedberg & Lewis.

“During the week of Sept. 27, 2021, for two days, the Elyria Police Department in collaboration with the Lorain County Prosecutor’s Office, Cuyahoga County Regional Human Trafficking Task Force and the Ohio Attorney General’s Office conducted a human trafficking operation, Operation Ohio Knows,” Elyria Police Department Captain William Pelko wrote in an Oct. 4 news release.

The release listed the 14 people arrested during the local sting, which included Friedberg; Elyria City Councilman Mark Jessie, 64, of Elyria; David Emmot, 59, of Elyria; Jamal Fahie, 33, of Cleveland; Kenneth Cain, 73, of Elyria; Dominick Scarpelli, 43, of Amherst; Guy Sapienza, 37, of Amherst; Vicente Criado Watanabe, 51, of Elyria; Michael Painter, 52, of Avon; Ronald Kucbel, 73, of Lorain; Donald Lowther, 69, of Castalia; and Joel Hill, 33, of Wellington. Herbert Hagwood, 45, of Lorain, and Maurice Bonner, 26, of Grafton, were also arrested for improper handling of a firearm in a motor vehicle after two firearms were recovered from the scene, in addition to their solicitation charges.

Seth Briskin, managing partner at Meyers, Roman, Friedberg & Lewis, sent a statement to the Cleveland Jewish News on Oct. 12 acknowledging Friedberg’s arrest and that he has been placed on a leave of absence “as he deals with this personal legal matter.”

“When we learned of this, our immediate focus was and continues to be to make sure that our clients’ legal needs are being met during his leave of absence,” Briskin wrote. “We recognize that this is a serious allegation. Given that it involves an active law enforcement investigation with many unknowns and is obviously a very sensitive matter, we cannot discuss the issue any further at this time.”

The release also indicated that six potential female human trafficking victims were identified during the arrests, and were referred and offered services to local outreach programs.

During an Oct. 4 news conference led by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, it was revealed that an additional 50 people were arrested for offering to sell sex. Ten missing children were also recovered during the sting.

“It happens everywhere,” Yost said during the news conference. “This is not just something that happens down in the ‘hood,’ in the city. It is in every county, every town. It is happening all over Ohio. Poor neighborhoods. Rich neighborhoods. Educated. Uneducated. Black. White. It doesn’t matter. It happens everywhere. And that’s why this fight is so important. And I will not rest until no one in Ohio buys or sells human beings.”

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