A Sylvania Township firefighter was among four men and one woman arrested Tuesday on solicitation-related charges at a Rossford motel as part of an ongoing crackdown by the Wood County Sheriff's Office to discourage prostitution.
James P. Thompson, 49, of Temperance was charged in the undercover sting at Knights Inn, 1120 Buck Rd., just west of I-75. Mr. Thompson is a full-time Sylvania Township firefighter and is a paid volunteer fireman with Bedford Township.
Mr. Thompson has been placed on leave from his status with Bedford Township, but remains on the job with Sylvania Township, pending the outcome of the third-degree misdemeanor criminal case, township administrators said.
Also arrested at the motel were Tony Pendergraff, 36, of 4132 S. Detroit Ave.; Demario Hartfield, 32, of 1673 Stanbery Ct.; and Thomas Welch, 26, of 448 E. Park St.
Mr. Thompson, Mr. Pendergraff, and Mr. Hartfield are accused of attempting to solicit plainclothes officers for sexual activity. Mr. Welch is charged with complicity to attempt solicitation.
Morgan Morris, 20, of Monroe, who was the only woman arrested in the sting, was charged with solicitation.
Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn said the arrests are the continuation of the undercover operation the department began last year to target victims of prostituion, specifically underage girls who may be caught up in human trafficking.
He said stings are set up about every six weeks with information offering services and meetings posted on Web sites. Motels at various locations in the county are picked for the undercover operations.
Last year, the department hosted stings at motels throughout the county, including one in Bowling Green that resulted in felony charges against a man who allegedly forced women to work for him, Sheriff Wasylyshyn said.
“We have an ongoing problem with human trafficking. ... We don’t want prostitutes and pimps working in Wood County,” the sheriff said, adding that 65 arrests were made during 2012.
“I hope we do that kind of numbers again,” he said.
Rossford and Perrysburg Township police and the state Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation assisted the sheriff’s department in the vice operation at the Rossford motel.
Bedford Township Fire Chief John Bofia said Mr. Thompson is a captain at the Temperance Fire Station and has been on the department for about 20 years.
Sylvania Township Fire Chief Jeff Kowalski said Mr. Thompson has been with the fire department since March, 2002.
“He has been a very good employee over those years. He has had no disciplinary problems,” he said.