Pedophile sting operation nets 12 suspects
By Justin Wier
Maj. Jeff Allen of the Mahoning County Sheriff’s office said he was surprised that a major sting operation targeting pedophiles nabbed an elementary school teacher with Youngstown City Schools.
“It’s concerning,” Allen said. “Doing these operations, you have to be prepared for whoever walks into that door.”
James Norkus, 24, of Salem is suspended without pay from his position as a physical-education teacher at Kirkmere Elementary pending the outcome of charges of importuning, attempted sexual conduct with a minor and possession of criminal tools. He has worked in the district since August 2017.
“We take the safety of our students very seriously, and I want to assure all of our parents that their children are safe while they are entrusted to us,” said city schools CEO Krish Mohip.
Assistant Mahoning County Prosecutor Jennifer McLaughlin said she will look into having Norkus surrender his teaching license as part of plea negotiations.
Operation Pedo-Cure II resulted in 12 arrests including Norkus, two more than a three-day operation in February that netted 10 men.
The others arrested are Naji Alsagoor, 25, of Boardman; Robert Canaan Jr., 50, of Niles; Justin Coyne, 21, of Cleveland; Adam Dziedzic, 38, of New Castle, Pa.; Brandon Gorcheff, 26, of North Lima; Thomas Maylone Jr., 29, of East Liverpool; Kevin McNally, 23, of Boardman; Alexander Morlan, 21, of New Middletown; Andrew Nuzzi, 22, of Girard; Peter Petroff Jr., 41, of Boardman; and Edward Webker, 41, of Andover.
All face charges of importuning, attempted unlawful sexual conduct with a minor and possession of criminal tools. Webker and Nuzzi also face one charge each of disseminating matter harmful to juveniles.
Law enforcement said Alsagoor is a Saudi Arabian national in the country on a student visa.
The 12 suspects are accused of having sexually explicit conversations online with an undercover officer posing as a 14- or 15-year-old child, then arranging to meet the officers in Mahoning County with the intent to have sexual relations.
While importuning is a fifth-degree felony, McLaughlin said it is an offense that carries the presumption of prison time.
She added that those who are convicted will have to register as sex offenders, which may make it more difficult for them to prey on children in the future.
Officers with the Mahoning County Sheriff’s office conducted the operation from Tuesday through Thursday with the Mahoning Valley Human Trafficking Task Force and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigations.
Mahoning County Sheriff Jerry Greene called the operation a “huge success.”
He said the sheriff’s office will continue to pursue those online who seek to prey on children.
“We’re not going away,” Greene said. “If anyone is out there online talking to someone, I want them to think it could be one of us.”