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Women plead not guilty to prostitution

Published: Tue, January 14, 2014 @ 12:05 a.m.

Six were caught in sting in Austintown

Six suspected prostitutes plead not guilty.

All six women caught in a sting in Austintown last week pleaded not guilty to their misdemeanor charges on Monday.

By kalea hall



All six women accused of prostitution and caught in a sting in Austintown last week pleaded not guilty to their misdemeanor charges Monday.

Only one of the women, Christina Gradillas, 34, of Boardman, is being detained in Mahoning County jail.

Gradillas is charged with prostitution, criminal trespassing, possession of drugs/drug abuse (suspected crack cocaine), possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of drug-abuse instruments.

She pleaded not guilty to all the misdemeanor charges.

No plea was accepted for her felony charge of drug possession.

Judge Diane Vettori of Mahoning County Area Court gave Gradillas a $2,500 cash or surety bond.

She also was given a $50,000 recognizance bond for the misdemeanor charges.

Maria Polas, 25, of Youngstown is charged with prostitution, drug abuse (heroin), drug abuse (suboxone), possession of drug paraphernalia and drug-abuse instruments.

She appeared with her attorney in court and pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor charges.

Cristin Urso, 32, of Warren sent in a letter of representation to enter a not guilty plea for a prostitution charge.

Tiye Brightwell-Knox, 27, of Akron pleaded not guilty to a prostitution charge.

LaCarra Peterson, 28, of Struthers also pleaded not guilty to a prostitution charge.

Heather Upole, 29, of Youngstown pleaded not guilty to the charges of prostitution and possession of drug paraphernalia.

The women were arrested on Wednesday after an undercover, collaborative operation among the Mahoning Valley Law Enforcement Task Force, Austintown Police Department, the Youngstown FBI and the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office.

Lt. Jeff Solic, task force commander, said the sting occurred in the state Route 46 and Interstate 80 corridor.

The women were not associated with one another and were discovered by escort advertisements they all had on backpage.com.

A man, Christopher Sturgeon, 23, of Youngstown, is charged with promoting prostitution and possessing drug-abuse instruments.

Solic said Sturgeon transported one of the women to the location were the activity was to take place.

Sturgeon did not appear at his arraignment set for 1 p.m. Monday, and court records did not reflect if a plea was entered for either charge.

He does have a pretrial hearing scheduled for both charges at 3 p.m. Feb. 3 in Austintown.

Gradillas, Polas and Urso have pretrial hearings for their charges at 3 p.m. Feb. 3.

Upole has a pretrial hearing at 3 p.m. March 31.

Court records were not available for Brightwell-Knox or Peterson.

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