USA Today

Drugs, sex trafficking and missing women: Small Ohio town haunted by dark allegations

PORTSMOUTH, Ohio – On a clear morning, the four-story Scioto County Courthouse casts its shadow over the smaller brick building just across Court Street, where criminal defense attorney Michael Mearan lives and operates his namesake legal practice.

Mearan, 73, is a one-time city councilman who since the 1970s has been a fixture in this small but troubled town along the Ohio River, which separates southern Ohio from northeastern Kentucky.

The area was once dubbed “America’s pill mill,” and when Mearan shuffles over to the courthouse in his rumpled suit, it’s often to represent someone in the relentless grip of opioid addiction.

But according to a federal wiretap affidavit, which was filed under seal with the Southern District of Ohio but was obtained by The Enquirer, Mearan is not just a jowly, silver-haired local attorney.

The 80-page affidavit states that Mearan is also a prolific sex trafficker who for decades has supplied his young, female clients with drugs “in exchange for and as an incentive to participate in acts of prostitution.”

The affidavit – filed in August 2015 by a senior special agent with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration – casts Mearan as a central figure in a drug and sex trafficking ring operating throughout the Midwest.

The agent linked to Mearan 27 women who worked for him as prostitutes, including one who has been missing since 2013 and another found dead of “multiple traumas” the same year.

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