FULL STORY Huron County Sheriff's deputies said they nabbed three men in a sting operation targeting a web-based prostitution service that fulfilled sexual, sadomasochistic fetishes.
A local teacher was among the three arrested.
Acting on a tip about a prostitution ring operating in the 3500 block of Ninevah Road in Greenwich, deputies went to that address on Sept. 1 and arrested Douglas E. Lucas, 53, Huron County Sheriff’s Capt. Ted Patrick said.
With a search warrant, they also seized items used in sexual role-playing, such as neckties, ropes and dog accessories.
At least one 47-year-old woman was allegedly working as a prostitute in Lucas’ home at the time, though she hasn’t been charged.
Lucas faces a fourth-degree felony for solicitation. He was released from jail after posting bond the day after his arrest.
Following Lucas’ arrest, however, deputies launched an undercover investigation targeting similar prostitution activity in the area.
Their efforts yielded two more arrests.
Lorain County Joint Vocational School teacher Todd Allen Pooch, 36, of the 500 block of Liberty Drive in Huron, and John Christopher Kemper, 52, a mechanical engineer from Brunswick, were each charged with soliciting, a third-degree misdemeanor.
They were among dozens who responded to requests from an undercover agent posing as a prostitute on the same website Lucas used, officials said.
Patrick said the two men made appointments to meet with the prostitute at a Norwalk hotel, requesting sexual acts using props such as a dog cage, bowl and collar, as well as masking tape, whips and a rubber ruler.
“This case shocks the conscience,” Patrick said. “It’s very unusual and twisted.”
The entire investigation, which took about a week and a half, was led by child support enforcement officer John Harris, who was temporarily reassigned from his duties.
The actual sting operation at the hotel only lasted about four hours.
Pooch arrived at the hotel first, Patrick said, while Kemper arrived about an hour and a half later.
Kemper actually checked the room for hidden microphones or surveillance cameras, Patrick said.
During their appointments, Pooch and Kemper paid the undercover woman an undisclosed fee and discussed various role-playing scenarios.
One of the men requested to be placed in the dog cage, while the other was already handcuffed, blindfolded and tied up by the time Huron County Sheriff Dane Howard and deputies entered the room to arrest them.
Both later confessed to soliciting the woman, Patrick said.
“From our understanding, there’s more than 1,000 people with screen names who are active on that website,” he said. “Had (the investigation) gone on for longer, we would have had several more arrested. We literally had dozens and dozens of requests from this informant, and we had to reduce this to a four-hour block.”
Pooch and Kemper have no apparent criminal history, and Lucas’ only charge in the area was passing a bad check in 2003, according to police records.
While the criminal cases against the men are pending, Pooch has already been placed on paid administrative leave at Lorain County Joint Vocational School.
He served as the head football coach at Firelands High School in Oberlin and taught classes at both schools.
“He’s done a good job as our football coach and as a teacher,” Firelands superintendent Greg Ring said. “We’re shocked at the allegations.”
Pooch most recently earned about $61,500 a year as a career-based intervention instructor, according to Lorain County JVS superintendent John Nolan.
Nolan confirmed Pooch was placed on leave but declined further comment.
Pooch and Kemper are scheduled for initial appearances Monday in Norwalk Municipal Court, though they’ve been released from jail after posting bonds.
Lucas appears to have played a more significant role in the website’s operation, but officials said it doesn’t appear he created the website.
He’s scheduled for a hearing Sept. 23 in Norwalk Municipal Court, represented by Norwalk attorney Thomas Stoll.
Stoll said he won’t comment until he receives discovery documents on the case.
Phone calls to Lucas’ home weren’t answered, and neither Pooch nor Kemper responded to requests for comment.
No one appeared to be involved in acts against their will during the crimes, but Patrick said the men clearly violated the law.
“It is a crime, and it’s our obligation to investigate these crimes that are reported,” he said. “This is a subculture that exists out there and was brought to our attention.”
Deputies followed the advice of the Norwalk city law director in arranging the operation, officials said.
If found guilty, Pooch and Kemper face a maximum of 60 days in jail and fines of up to $500. Lucas could receive probation or up to 18 months in prison for the more serious charge of solicitation.
Deputies and police officials said prostitution busts are rare in this area.
If they make an arrest, it’s usually a result of complaints or anonymous tips.