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17 Northeast Ohio men charged in human trafficking investigation

Several men answered an online advertisement offering explicit sexual services in exchange for payment.

STARK COUNTY, Ohio — Seventeen men in Northeast Ohio were arrested and charged as the result of a human trafficking investigation that took place on Dec. 8.

An online ad offering sexual favors for money led the men to a Microtel Inn & Suites hotel in Canton, the center of an undercover operation. 

Sixteen of the men were arrested and charged with Engaging in Prostitution (M-1) and Possession of Criminal Tools (M-1):

  • Dwayne T. Murray, age 31, Kent, OH
  • Willie A. Fountain III, age 46, North Jackson, OH
  • Michael E. Lyon, age 53, Dover, OH
  • Ger Vang, age 34, Akron, OH
  • Joseph Sherwood, age 45, Medina, OH
  • Michael K. Hoover, age 39, Canton, OH
  • James P. Cooney, age 47, Brunswick, OH
  • Keith D. Larew, age 50, Salem, OH
  • Terry Renner, age 64, Massillon, OH
  • Rajiv Abichandani, age 38, Aurora, OH
  • Robert L. Kasler, age 50, Massillon, OH
  • Robert D. Hoover, age 61, Chagrin Falls, OH
  • Walter L. Martin, age 53, Akron, OH
  • Robert J. Yoder, age 49, Apple Creek, OH
  • John M. Kenzie, age 58, Coventry Township, OH
  • Derek E. Rucker, age 60, Akron, OH

The prostitution charges are first-degree misdemeanors that each carry up to six months in jail.

Additionally, 48-year-old Shane L. Gammel of Canton, OH was arrested and charged with the following:

  • Engaging in Prostitution (M-1)
  • Possession of Criminal Tools (M-1)
  • Possession of Drugs (F-5)
  • Aggravated Trafficking in Drugs (F-4)

Reports indicate one of the men, Robert Kasler, is a pastor at Manchester Christian Church in New Franklin. He's listed as the church's senior pastor. He declined to speak to 3News Investigator Marisa Saenz at the church. 

Shannon Majesky with the Collaborative to End Human Trafficking says crimes of this nature aren’t always as theatrical as many believe. In fact, many times, it unfolds through the most innocent and discreet methods.

"It is happening everywhere on the streets in Cleveland, in suburbs that we wouldn't necessarily think," Majesky explains.

The collaborative wants to remind everyone with just two weeks away from National Human Trafficking Awareness Month – if you know something or see something suspicious – to say something.

The investigation was conducted by the Jackson Township Police Department and Summit County Sheriff’s Office with assistance from the Stark County Sheriff’s Office, Stark County Metro Narcotics, North Canton Police Department, Springfield Township Police Department, and the Massillon City Prosecutor’s Office.

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