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"I guess you could call them Johns -- they'd come and go continuously," says a woman who lived across the women in Sagamore Hills when they lived at the apartment complex in 2011 and 2012, the same time they were working for Walsh. "The girls were obviously strung out on drugs, because in a year period you saw them go from normal looking girls to anorexic looking."
When the girls were there, neighbors spotted guys coming and going every 30 minutes on the half-hour; when one would leave, another, who had been waiting in the parking lot, would come in. Neighbors also knew elementary school-aged children and an infant were there when it happened. They would constantly call child protective services and the police, but nothing seemed to get them to stop.
"Us neighbors really didn't care what the girls were doing, we were just concerned about the kids being there," she says. "Everyone's been calling the police, we see those kids up in the bedroom all day long. What's going on? Everyone's been calling, everyone here did their job, calling child services, the police."
The women were eventually evicted.
"Many of these young women are addicted to drugs or destitute and are being abused by pimps," Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty said in a press release after the September raid. "It was an overdose at this bordello -- and the woman's rescue by firefighters and police officers -- that triggered this investigation."
McGinty's referring to an incident at the building that happened one morning in July 2012. One woman -- who lived in the Sagamore Hills apartment described above and is no stranger to many police departments in Northeast Ohio -- called her friend "and said she was going to commit suicide by taking pills." That friend called Bedford police and told them where she was: the third floor of the Walsh building, just a mile from the police department. Police found her "in a locked back office unconscious but breathing, surrounded by pills." Her infant daughter was found alone in another room. The two were taken to a hospital; 6.4 grams of heroin and misoprostol -- a drug used to induce abortions -- were taken from the Walsh building by police.
McGinty cites this as the instigator to the prostitution investigation, but it's likely not the real reason. (Bedford Police Chief Kris Nietert later confirmed to Scene it was not when the investigation started.) This was not the first time police knew something was up in the Walsh building.
Almost two years earlier, the same woman had called 911 some time after 2 a.m. to report someone was following her and the doors being tampered with. Walsh was letting her stay at the building, authorities determined, and found nothing wrong with the doors after checking the premises. She had another run-in with police there three months later, in November 2010, and they picked her up for an outstanding warrant in another town.
Her employer was listed as "Studio 54 Girls, Bedford, OH 44146" in a February 23 contempt of court arrest in a Garfield Heights after she failed to pay a parking ticket.
There were multiple calls and complaints to the Bedford Police Department in the seven months prior to the suicide attempt reporting prostitution activity, with children present, in the Walsh building (read police reports about those complaints here).
On Jan. 15, 2012, records show a husband of one of the workers went to the police station just after 9 p.m.. The report states:
Complainant on station to report his wife being involved in a prostitution ring in Bedford. His concern was that his children were going to the location with his wife. Male was advised its okay to pickup his children and to contact the detective bureau tomorrow. Email copy to DJB.
Five months later, in May 2012, it was still going on. This time, the sister-in-law of the worker made the call:
Complainant called and reported that there are females engaging in prostitution at the Walsh building.
An officer called the complainant back, and she provided information about the suspects. She added that she believes there are small children there while this is taking place. The complainant was advised that officers would check the building to see if anyone was there, including the children.
At 2147 hrs., officers checked the building. There was one vehicle in the parking lot. All doors were locked and officers were unable to gain entry to the building. There appeared to be a light on up on the third floor.
The complainant was advised of our findings, and that this information would be turned over to the detective bureau.
A little more than two weeks after that, an employee of the Summit County Children Services called the Bedford police up again:
Euniece Brooks called from Summit County Childrens and Family Services for a welfare check on an infant who is reported to be with her mother who is prostituting now at the above address. The 3rd floor was all locked up and dark, no one appeared to be there. Summit County Family Services were advised.
Bedford police wouldn't start investigating until months later, and didn't see much progress until the county investigators, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, and the feds were brought in, more than a year after police were directly alerted to the alleged prostitution ring by the husband of one of the workers.
Harry J. Jacob III has lived in Northeast Ohio his entire life. A 1974 Chagrin Falls High School grad, he went on to Kent State and got his degree from the Case Western University School of Law in 1981. His bio on the Bedford Municipal Court site says he's a family man with a wife and two adult children (his daughter is an assistant Geauga County prosecutor) who won the "State Boys Youth Soccer Coach of the Year" in 2002 for running Solon's youth soccer program. He served on church boards, civil service commissions, and Solon's Chamber of Commerce, among other groups.
The court's bio, written prior to investigation, also has a hell of a quote: Judge Jacob "made the effort of promoting, protecting, and improving the honesty and ethics of the local legal community." He served on the Cuyahoga County Bar Association's grievance committee, chaired the Ethics Committee and the Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee.
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