CANFIELD, OH (WKBN) - Twelve men were arrested as part of a three-day undercover operation into child sexual exploitation and sex trafficking.
Among the men who were arrested is 24-year-old James Norkus, a physical education teacher at Kirkmere Elementary School in Youngstown.
Norkus has been suspended without pay from Youngstown City Schools after news of the charges was released.
The school district says it won't take any action during the investigation, but Norkus is prohibited from entering the district-owned property or having contact with student and staff during his case.
Norkus was also recently hired as the assistant varsity football coach at Leetonia Schools. He has also been suspended without pay there as well.
"It is reprehensible that anyone would arrange to meet with a juvenile for sex, but it is even more appalling when the person facing charges is an elementary school teacher," said Attorney General DeWine.
The suspects are all accused of having sexually-explicit online conversations with undercover officers posing as children. Investigators said the suspects traveled to a vacant home in Mahoning County with the intent to engage in a sexual encounter with a minor.
They face charges of importuning, unlawful sexual conduct with minors and possession of criminal tools.
Charged are the following:
- James Norkus, 24, of Salem
- Naji Alsagoor, 25, Boardman
- Robert Canann Jr., 50, Niles
- Justin Coyne, 21, Cleveland
- Adam Dziedzic, 38, New Castle, Pennsylvania
- Brandon Gorcheff, 26, North Lima
- Thomas Maylone Jr., 29, East Liverpool
- Kevin McNally, 23, Boardman
- Alexander Morlan, 21, New Middletown
- Andrew Nuzzi, 22, Girard
- Peter Petroff Jr., 47, Boardman
- Edward Webker, 41, Andover
Webker and Nuzzi are also charged with disseminating matter harmful to juveniles because investigators said they sent sexually-explicit photographs during their online chats with the undercover officers.
The Mahoning County Sheriff's Office, the Ohio Attorney General's Office and other agencies that are part of the Human Trafficking Task Force took part in the investigation.
The Mahoning County Human Trafficking Task Force got its start about a year and a half ago, and it has been working with the Attorney General's Office to set up such sex stings.
"I want everybody to know. You know, anyone who is out there who is looking to exploit anyone who is underage, that if they're on the internet and they're talking to anybody, I want them to think that it could be one of us," said Mahoning County Sheriff Jerry Greene.
Greene recommended that parents carefully track their children's online conversations because he said predators are out there.