Saturday, December 16, 2017

Southern Ohio Justice Follow-up By: Nikki Blankenship



Scioto County leaders investigated for human trafficking
By Nikki Blankenship

Earlier this year, Spike TV aired its eight-part series, titled “Gone: The Forgotten Women of Ohio.” The documentary attempted to find answers in some of the area's unsolved cases, including the local case of Megan Lancaster who has been missing since April 3, 2013. Despite their efforts, there are still a plethora of questions that remain unanswered.

A sealed affidavit used in a trafficking case may provide more insights. According to the recently obtained affidavit, several local individuals have been named in a federal investigation into human trafficking, drug trafficking and public corruption that reaches all the way to the state level. The investigation links the alleged criminal organization to some of Scioto County's missing women. A sealed affidavit filed by the FBI with U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Eastern Division in Columbus on Aug. 19, 2015, as part of a federal investigation, names several individuals in connection to varied criminal activities including trafficking in narcotics, human trafficking and public corruption.

Targets of the investigation include Portsmouth attorney and former City Councilman Michael Mearan; Portsmouth insurance agent Fred Brisker; Ashland, Kentucky car dealer Daren Biggs; convicted narcotics trafficker, Mark Eubanks, of Columbus; Timothy Wayne Mutter, of Franklin Furnace; Richard Glenn, of Portsmouth; Patricia Tsotsos, of Portsmouth; Trent Banks, of Columbus; Kenyatta “Yatta” Connally, of Portsmouth; Dan Schoenberger, of Columbus; Donald Smith, of Columbus; Brett Fluharty, of Milton, West Virginia; and Lindsay Porter, of Portsmouth. There were additional targets of investigation that remained unnamed in the affidavit. The list included an unnamed Scioto County Common Pleas judge, an unnamed state judge, various unnamed members of law enforcement, unnamed staff at Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF) and various levels of unnamed public officials.

The affidavit explains that information gathered up until the filing date had been collected through the FBI Portsmouth office and the Southern Ohio Drug Task Force (SODTF). During the time, the FBI and SODTF were making controlled buys of heroin and had already tapped the phone of one subject. Additional information was provided by confidential informants. Mearan is at the center of the investigation. The affidavit states that according to gathered evidence, “Mearan is an attorney and former City Councilman in Portsmouth, Ohio who recruits females to engage in prostitution in southern Ohio and occasionally other US locations.”

Per the affidavit, according to the investigation, Mearan allegedly conspired with public officials who pull legal strings in favor of females employed by Mearan. “Mearan has been reported as offering his legal services, clothing, residence, food etc., to females in return for them becoming prostitutes for him and conducting sexual acts for his clients including a Portsmouth, Ohio judge, Southern Ohio Correctional Facility Staff members, and local businessmen,” the affidavit states. “This information was obtained through numerous interviews, including interviews with former prostitutes. Mearan has also been reported as being involved in purchasing drugs, including Oxycodone and heroin, from Eubanks and others, in order to provide them to his prostitutes and clients.

Mearan has also been suspected as being in collusion with a Portsmouth, Ohio judge to get females out on bail, parole, etc., in order to use those females as prostitutes and with unknown law enforcement or legislative officials to tip off Mearan's drug suppliers including Eubanks.” The document indicates that the local attorney's involvement in prostitution can be traced back to the 1990s. According to the evidence presented, Mearan transported prostitutes across the country to meet with clients. These trips are allegedly set up by Mearan and Brisker.

“The females travel specifically to meet clients that were arranged by Mearan and Brisker. The trips would usually last between two days and one week. The scope of this investigation includes subjects who are conspiring with Mearan to facilitate the activities of the Criminal Enterprise in Ohio, Kentucky, New Jersey, Michigan, Florida and New York,” Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Special Agent Keith P. Leighton, who prepared the affidavit, reported.

Evidence includes a compiled list of females who worked as prostitutes for Mearan as well as men (commonly referred to as “johns”) who were provided their services. “The subjects include attorneys and one current state judge,” the document reads. “To date, 27 women have been identified as former or current prostitutes.”

Several informants gave statements of public corruption. In one such example, an informant reported that in late 2013, while she was incarcerated (outside of Scioto County), Mearan represented her as her attorney and helped her obtain a judicial release. She further explained that he then had her parole supervision moved to Scioto County by instructing the court that the female was a dog trainer and would be living with Mearan in order to train his dogs.

Evidence presented in the affidavit indicates that the female was not a dog trainer and became employed by Mearan as a prostitute. The affidavit further states that the informant was a prostitute for Mearan for approximately one year and met with interstate clients including Biggs. The affidavit further documents a separate interstate arrangement, which allegedly occurred in 2014, during which Mearan allegedly arranged for two women to travel to Palm Beach, Florida, to engage in acts of prostitution, all of which was corroborated by photos, telephone analysis and airline information.

Not only did the document link Mearan to acts of prostitution and drug trafficking, it further associated him with women that have gone missing or who have been found murdered.For example, it reads, “On April 3, 2013, a local female went missing after her automobile was discovered parked at a local fast food restaurant in Portsmouth, Ohio. This female was a known prostitute, intravenous drug user and a prostitute employed by Mearan. The investigation into this female's disappearance is currently being conducted by the Portsmouth, Ohio Police Department (PPD).”

The affidavit then states, “On July 17, 2013, another woman utilized in the past by Mearan to engage in prostitution was found deceased in the Scioto County area,” the affidavit reads. “An autopsy revealed the cause of death as multiple traumas. The investigation is being conducted by the Scioto County Sheriff's Office (SCSO) and remains unsolved. The FBI Portsmouth, Ohio office is providing assistance to the SCSO and the PPD with their investigations.”

Mearan is cited as being “an integral part” of numerous other investigations including an Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Cincinnati Field Division White Slave Trafficking investigation, FBI Cincinnati Field Division Human Trafficking investigation, an FBI Detroit Field Division Extortion investigation, an FBI Cincinnati Field Division Mexican Drug Trafficking Organization investigation, an FBI Cincinnati Field Division Violent Gang investigation, an FBI Pittsburgh Field Division Violent Gang investigation and a DEA Cincinnati Resident Office investigation. Mearan's phone number has also been identified as used in association with online advertising with Backpage.com, a classifieds site known for sex-related ads and online prostitution. Advertisements associated with Mearan's phone number included ads flagged for featuring underage girls. Many individuals involved in the investigation for supplying narcotics to the criminal enterprise have since been convicted while other subjects remain at large.
“      
  According to court documents, the FBI began investigating a drug trafficking organization operating in central and southern Ohio in 2014,” Frank Lewis reported in an article titled “Locals sentenced in federal court” published by The Portsmouth Daily Times on Oct. 19, 2016.

Lewis' story further credited the convictions to Benjamin C. Glassman, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, Angela L. Byers, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Timothy J. Plancon, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Detroit Field Division, agencies participating in the Southern Ohio Drug Task Force, Columbus Police Chief Kim Jacobs and U.S. District Judge Michael H. Watson who presided over the case.


The investigation also led to the convictions of targets Mutter, Glenn, Eubanks, Smith and Banks as well as additional conspirators Johnathan Nunez, of Wheelersburg; Kent Whiteside, of Columbus; and Gregory Workman of Springfield. All have been convicted of conspiracy to distribute narcotics. There are no other known arrests associated with the investigation. 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Felons are Ohio's New PI(s)


         A lengthy and complicated new law enacted by the Ohio legislature and signed by Governor Kasich includes provisions that will make it easier for individuals with conviction histories to obtain employment and occupational licenses (PI Licenses).The law amends several Ohio statutes relating to collateral sanctions for criminal offenses by creating certificates of qualification for employment, reducing licensing restrictions for certain fields such as cosmetology, construction, security and private investigators, and expanding courts’ authority to seal criminal records.

      As it relates to occupational licensing (PI Licenses), the law generally removes the disqualification of individuals for most criminal convictions that are not recent (either within one or three years depending on the licensing agency), crimes involving moral turpitude, or a disqualifying offense. The statute contains a comprehensive definition of "moral turpitude" that generally includes serious crimes of violence or sexual in nature. A "disqualifying offense" is defined as an offense that is a felony that has a direct nexus to an individual’s proposed or current field of licensure, certification, or employment. The problem here is that Ohio’s licensing entity currently only views Murder and Armed Robbery and Domestic Violence as disqualifiers.

    The bill replaces the term "first offender" with "eligible offender," which is defined as anyone who has been convicted of an offense in this state or any other jurisdiction and who has not more than one felony conviction, not more than two misdemeanor convictions if the convictions are not of the same offense, or not more than one felony conviction and one misdemeanor conviction in this state or any other jurisdiction. Under both existing and the new law, convictions of certain specified offenses, and related convictions in specified circumstances do not count as a conviction.

     While other States and PI Associations attempt to bring about a more professional status to private investigators Ohio takes a step backward and invites convicted felons and ex-cons to become licensed PI(s) in their state.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Justice In Ohio


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PISGS would like to hear how our licensed security guard and private investigation companies "Contribute to a Safer Ohio" 

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Please take a moment to consider how you and your company make Ohio safer. What do you do on a daily basis to make our citizens feel safe and secure? 



                                                Justice In Ohio  By: Jim Silvania


                        I received the above in email from the Ohio Department of Public Safety asking for comments as to what as a private investigator I do on a daily basis to make citizens in Ohio feel safer?
I cannot speak for every licensed private investigator in Ohio nor the Nation but I can reflect on my 33 years of being a private investigator and 20 years as a law enforcement officer in that state.

                        What private investigators in Ohio attempt to do is bring to its citizens is JUSTICE. You know the blind lady with the balancing scales. Something very lacking in this state. One only has to watch cable tv’s Investigation Discovery Channel or Spike TV to see the many miscarriages of justice in our state.  Missing women in Chillicothe, OH,  in Pepples, OH nine people shot and killed; both remain unsolved. I could go on, but you can catch the rest on either of the above-mentioned TV Channels.

                        Ohio is political unique in that it has 88 counties and therefore 88 county coroners and 88 county sheriffs, but only 4-5 of those counties have a forensic pathologist as the coroner. The others have your regular family physician with no forensic experience to determine the cause of death. In many cases private investigators in Ohio are called upon to relieve a family’s grief in attempting to determine the true cause of a wrongful death. Yearly a number of homicides in the State are written off as natural or accidental deaths.

                        The State of Ohio is like several other states nationwide that have a highway patrol rather than a state police with statewide policing jurisdiction. In Ohio, unless you commit a criminal act in a motor vehicle upon a state highway or on state property can justice be obtained by the Ohio Highway Patrol. Off the road, justice is left to local law enforcement which in most cases is one of the 88 county sheriffs. A requirement to become a law enforcement officer in one of those 88 sheriff’s department is only 695 hours of training. Although several of the departments may require more the basic standard for administering justice is 695 hours. Enough said for that matter.
            In regard to the 88 county sheriffs, there are ups and downs as in some of the southern and eastern counties of Ohio the department runs out of funds before the year ends and justice is reduced to bare bones or none at all. Every year two or three of those elected 88 sheriffs are indicted and convicted of RICO, Hatch Act or improper use of criminal justice funds; justice upon those who are required to bring its citizens justice.

            What does it take to become the head administrator of justice, a sheriff in all of these 88 counties: a high school degree or its equivalent, have been a law enforcement officer 13 pay periods within the four years prior to running for office and 2 years supervisory experience as a sergeant or above?  That’s not to say that by luck some of those 88 do a great job. But who picks up this justice slack for the Ohio Citizens, the Private Investigator.

            Who investigates complex major embezzlement and economic crimes for businesses. Not the FBI, they’re too busy allegedly catching a terrorist. Only the major cities in Ohio have educated and trained law enforcement officers who can bring about justice for the economically wronged. The rest of Ohio’s Citizens must rely on or pay for the services of a private investigator to bring about justice. Intellectual property crimes are also left to the enforcement of private investigators.

            Many domestic and child custody matters now days involve accusations of drug or child abuse. Private investigators are hired to obtain the truth in these allegations thus assisting citizens to obtain justice in said matters.             Probate matters other than finding rightful heirs often lead to a fight over that last dollar on the table. Private investigators attempt to bring justice in probate matters to the rightly deserved. Wrongful incarceration, when law enforcement evades justice, requires in most cases a private investigator to obtain justice for the wrongly incarcerated individual.


            As you can see in Ohio, as in every other state, obtaining justice is not a sole responsibility of the State. The private investigator can assist it citizenry to obtain the justice they desire. And it is justice, and the search therein that provides for a safer and more honest State.  

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Free to Become Otherwise

      A long, long time ago while attending Capital University here in Columbus, OH I wrote an op/ed article for the campus paper which was based on the premise that “All Men Are Created Equal and Should Be Free to Become Otherwise.” I still after all these years, additional education and life experiences believe in that premise, but with exceptions.

As we all know God did not create us equally. We are not duplicates made from the same cookie cutter mold. Some have hair, other do not. Some are gifted with higher intelligence, vocal, musical or artistic talents.  Others different in skin color, language, religious beliefs, gender, size and a multitude of other things that make us, us. But we should be free in this country to become whatever it is we care to be as long as it is not a violation of our statutory laws or does not interfere with the another’s freedoms.

When we are not given the freedom by outside forces to obtain those goals it is called discrimination.  The Constitution and the Civil Rights Acts address those issues and offer a legal path to correct those issues.  It should be applied freely to all, period.
When those outside forces attempt to force us to believe as they do it attacks our freedom. It becomes oppression.  If we disagree with our oppressors, we are labeled as non-believers, racist, homophobes, rednecks, and a multitude of other slanderous names depending on your standing in the community.

Our “Freedom to Become Otherwise” has been under attack for a number of years now but never so much as within the last few. In this country, there should be no such thing as labeled Americans. If you are born here or obtained legal status as a citizen, then you are an American. There should be no hyphenated Americans, just plain old Americans. Who have one flag, the Stars and Strips.

Your religious beliefs should be your own with the freedom to worship the God or the Prophet of your choosing. But you should not have the freedom to impose those beliefs on others. The same applies to sexual beliefs. Whatever you care to do in your own bedroom, that is within the law, is up to you but you should not be allowed to force others who do not accept your life style to bake you wedding cakes if they care not to.

There is a thin line between freedom and oppression and it is dependent on who’s ox is getting gored. We are supposed to be a country of laws. The statue of Lady Justice is blindfolded for a reason and the scales should be balanced for all. There will always be those who care to oppress our freedoms and unbalance the scales of justice but our right to freedom for a  better life should never be repressed because of other beliefs.




Thursday, September 22, 2016

Razzle but No Dazzle

                   Razzle but No Dazzle   By: Jim Silvania

Razzle has come to the world of Private Investigation and Software Development via a variation of a Nigerian Scam.

Razzle is an old carnival game of skill or chance in which an individual pays money for a chance at a prize. The most common version of this illegal game seen at carnivals is football. Eight marbles sized balls are given to the player in a cup to roll out onto a playfield board this has holes for the marbles to go into. Numbers are assigned to each hole and totaled up as yardage for football or miles for a car race. At first the operator cheats in favor of the player by fast counting and makes it appear that the player is winning. The operator then entices the player to continue to play as he or she is close to winning the grand prize. When the player continues the operator no longer cheats for the player and the astronomical odds of winning take over. Winning the local lottery or Power Ball has better odds.

So let’s apply this the scam to a mythical case and a factious PI named Michael Singh. Mr. Singh claims to be highly educated spyware developer who assist individuals and private investigators install spyware on cell phones. He advertises that he can do that from his office and does not have to have the cell phone in his possession. All he needs is that individual supply him with the target’s telephone number. This mythical PI can be reached at Michael Singh michaelsingh231@gmail.com or by messaging him on his cell phone at 302/ 317-1108. He even supplies his customer with false identification in an attempt to verify his reality.

First you pay upfront the cost of the software, followed by his fee for installing the software. Once that you have forwarded those funds to Ile-Ife, Nigeria address additional charges soon follow:

“I am presently done with your job but the Results came out in Encrypted form.
Cases like this are common these days.
Because the target in question always encrypts his/her number so that information would not r accessible.
But then I already got in touch with the hacker I work with.And to decrypt the results, it usually cost 105$.
But the good new is that decryption takes only 45mins. After which the results would be in plain words understandable to humans.
So presently you would need to make a payment of 105$.let me know wen you get this so I forward you the information of the hacker”; and so on and so forth or until the client runs out of money.

When the client complains he is threatened by Mr. Singh who states he develops spyware for the IRS and knows people who will get you.

“I cannot make the refunds because I already purchased the spyware and used it for the job and I would be sending your results like that to you in code so you figure out how to decrypt it, which would cost you close to 4times the amount I told you. I work with the IRS as their spyware developer and I know a lot of people.”

             If that’s not enough, days later the scam continues when you get an email from a Nigerian Private Investigative Agency, Augustus Hall Ltd. claiming that for additional funds they can solve your problems with Mr. Singh and get your previous investment with Mr. Singh refunded.

Every PI has had a client who has been scammed or been requested to follow-up on a Nigerian Scam but this is the first one I have come across which was directly related to our industry. Forewarned is forearmed so please be advised.




Thursday, July 7, 2016

                     I’d Rather Trust a PI

              Let me start out by explaining that this article was written under the new Justice Department and FBI guide lines that apply to intent, otherwise known as the Clinton Rule.  Because of the possibility of early onset Alzheimer’s and possible dementia due to my age, older than dirt, I can no longer be held to the old standards or the standards of anyone younger than me or who is a politician.  
              I have over those years authored three books that contain either chapters or deal with “ethics”. I have as well, authored several articles on “ethics” that have appeared in national publications. In addition to that, I have always made “ethics” a part of my curriculum in teaching over 20 years at the college level. I therefore believe I can forward my two cents on the current issues at hand.

There was a time when having a resume that contained or listed past FBI Agent, FBI National Academy Graduate, ATF Agent or IRS Agent meant something. That was ended today when now FBI Director addressed Congress.

I guess the current teachings at the above Federal Law Enforcement Academies now include classes on how to lie to Congress, how to kill Border Patrol Agents and get away with it and how to plead the 5th and still keep your job.  I guess I should include the new Secret Service class of how to pick up hookers in Columbia but that was previously covered by how to pimp for Bill Clinton.

The majority of national groups of private investigators all have a code of ethics that apply to the professionalism of the profession. If one does violate the stated ethical code of that organization, one can be removed for said violation. Even “lawyers’ have an ethical code and violation of that code can lead to disbarment. Bill Clinton was disbarred.  Marilyn Mosbey the Baltimore County Prosecutor has had disbarment charges brought against her. Should their respective bars consider disbarment for Hillary Clinton and James Comey?  I always though perjury was a crime.

            I would be remiss if I did include the latest happenings in Ohio. That is 6 unsolved murders or 4 deaths and two missing females in Ross County and 8 unsolved murders in neighboring Pike County.  One of those events became a script for a national televised syndicated TV series.  The story of the 8 deaths in Pike County will no doubt follow. What’s my point here.

While driving by the death scene of the Pike County incident I observed an Ohio State Highway Patrol Officer directing traffic, but that’s what they’re good at. Who’s investigating the 14 unsolved homicides? Not a State Police Agency with real investigative experience but political entities of the Buckeye State Sherriff’s Office and a political arm of the State AG’s Office.

How many more people in this nation and our state must die before we are provided with professional law enforcement unheeded by political pressures.  As tax payers don’t we deserve better.

        If I’m shot call a PI to investigate not some political unethical law enforcement officer who no longer upholds the ethical standers of his or her profession.
           

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Dealing With The Control Freak



A while back I wrote an article for PI Magazine entitled “Dealing with the Paranoid Schizophrenic Client”. I would like to continue along those lines and add some input in dealing with the “Control Freak”.

A control freak can be defined as “someone who wants to control every aspect of a situation and will not allow other people to share in making decisions.  “Controlling people can be hard to live with—with their constant advice, rigid routines, and schedules, times; their backseat driving and their demands that the dishwasher needs to be loaded in a certain way, and the tools in the garage put back on the proper hooks. They obsess and map out every minute of Thanksgiving or Christmas weeks in advance, and they get irritable or angry when plans get disrupted or you fail to follow through on what you said you were going to do.”

You know you are a control freak if:

1. “You believe that if someone would change one or two things about themselves, you'd be happier. So you try to "help them" change this behavior by pointing it out, usually over and over.

2. You micromanage others to make them fit your (often unrealistic) expectations. You don't believe in imperfection and you don't think anyone else should either.

3. You judge others' behavior as right or wrong and passive-aggressively withhold attention until they fall in line with your expectations. Sitting in silent judgment is a master form of control.

4. You offer "constructive criticism" as a veiled attempt to advance your own agenda.

5. You change who you are or what you believe so that someone will accept you. Instead of just being yourself, you attempt to incept others by managing their impression of you.

6. You present worst-case scenarios in an attempt to influence someone away from certain behaviors and toward others. This is also called fear mongering.

7. You have a hard time with ambiguity and being OK with not knowing something.

8. You intervene on behalf of people by trying to explain or dismiss their behaviors to others.”

In domestic matters the above has led to increased sales of Cell Phone Spyware and GPS(s) being sold as well as a PI being asked to assist the individual in their controlling endeavors.  Either party in those situations may be the one to ask for your assistance; the controller or the controlee. At what point does it become an ethical question for the investigator.

In my personal situation I have even received a card from an individual on whose car I had placed a GPS to determine if he was having an affair. Unbeknown to his wife the subject had placed spyware on her cell phone so after wasting my client, his wife’s money he sent me a “Got You Card” letting me know he was aware of everything. Even though Cell Phone Spyware is illegal the internet is flooded with software companies willing to take the chance and sell the software to anyone willing to pay the price. One should look at 18 U.S. Code § 2511 - Interception and disclosure of wire, oral, or electronic communications prohibited prior to engaging in such endeavors.

In domestic matters If they have tried counselling and all else fails you must be ready to tell your client if they are the controlee to be prepared to walk away – let their significant control other people.  At least you did your part. But again this is an ethical situation as to due I assist my client or keep my mouth shut?

In another personal matter after providing surveillance for the controlee before coming to the conclusion that he was one I got the call from the controlee who said no sense in wasting her husband’s money she would just call me in advance to let me know where she was going. The money was great but at what point does the PI become a stalker.

Every day a PI engaged in domestic surveillance comes across the “Control Freak” and you have to ask yourself do I take the money and run or do I say no. Each case if different because you may not have the knowledge that your client is a control freak until later in your investigation. It is an ethical dilemma that PIs face every day.  Do I do the right thing or make money?