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Hermitage man ‘stung’ last October pleads guilty to sex offense

YOUNGSTOWN — A Hermitage, Pa. man pleaded guilty Thursday to attempted unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, attempted importuning and possession of criminal tools for trying to arrange to have sex with who he thought was a minor.

Nathan Lucas, 34, of Madison Street entered guilty pleas before Judge John Durkin of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court. An investigation of Lucas’ background will be conducted, and he will be sentenced later.

Lucas could get prison or probation without prison time. He will have to register as a sex offender.

Ohio’s importuning law states that no person shall solicit a person who is less than 13 years old to engage in sexual activity. The criminal tools Lucas had were a cell phone and condoms, according to his indictment.

Lucas was among 14 men arrested during a three-day sex sting carried out by the Mahoning Valley Human Trafficking Task Force and Mahoning County Sheriff Jerry Greene last October, as part of a statewide effort to arrest those attempting to have sex with minors.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost named it Operation Autumn Hope. Yost said in a news release the effort involved more than 50 law enforcement agencies and others in an effort to “break the cycle that fuels sex trafficking.”

“This is the fourth time we have done it locally,” Greene said of a crackdown on sex trafficking.

In addition to the sheriff’s office, agencies involved locally were the Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, Austintown Police Department, Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Ohio Investigative Unit, Ohio State Highway Patrol, Boardman Police Department, Youngstown Police Department, Mahoning County Prosecutor’s office, Ohio Organized Crime Investigative Commission, Mahoning County Adult Parole Authority and the Cortland Police Department.

Such operations involve undercover officers posing as boys and girls ages 12 to 15. After the suspects arrange to have sex by chatting with who they believe are children but are actually officers, they drive to meet the “children” for sex. They then are arrested.

In addition to making arrests, other goals of the operation are to rescue victims of human trafficking and refer them to social services and recover missing and exploited children.

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