JACKSON TONWSHIP, Ohio — On Tuesday, the Jackson Township Police Department announced more than a dozen arrests from a four-day undercover child-sex sting dubbed "Operation Unsportsmanlike Conduct."
According to police, 14 people who thought they were meeting up with a child for sex were arrested by Jackson Township police and members of the Internet Crimes against Children Task Force, Ohio State Highway Patrol, Stark County Sheriff's Office and other local, state and federal authorities.
Police said that undercover investigators posed as boys and girls between the ages of 12 to 15-years-old and conversed with adults who expressed interest in meeting a child to engage in sexual activity. The agents then set up a location to meet with the adults who were then taken into custody when they showed up.
"These predators are out there," said Jackson Township Police Chief Mark Brink. "They're just waiting for the opportunity to meet children."
According to the Stark County Prosecutor's Office, the arrested individuals face various charges such as pandering obscenities involving a minor and attempted unlawful sexual conduct with a minor.
Police said that agents used online chats and social media apps to have conversations with those individuals who were arrested. Every individual arrested during the operation believed they were going to a location to meet with a child.
Authorities said that the people arrested in the sting ran the gamut of professions, ranging from utility workers, to counselors to one individual identified as a preschool employee at YWCA in Canton. Authorities identified the preschool employee as Jerry Ragsdale, who has been placed on unpaid administrative leave.
The YWCA released the following statement Tuesday afternoon:
"On February 3, 2020, the YWCA Canton placed employee, Jerry Roeal Ragsdale, on unpaid administrative leave as soon as the agency learned of his arrest for an alleged inappropriate situation with a minor. While on administrative leave, Mr. Ragsdale does not have access to our facility. The YWCA has contacted the parents and guardians whose children had direct contact with Mr. Ragsdale. Our utmost concern is the safety and protection of our children who attend our preschool and utilize our services. The YWCA will continue to take every precaution necessary to protect our children."
Authorities say one of the other suspects, Adam Leidtke, is a former employee of the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center who worked there between 2017 and 2018.
Leidtke is currently employed as a care manager for Beacon Health Options. The company issued a statement that indicated an internal investigation is underway and Leidtke has been suspended.
According to Brink, everyone who was arrested solicited undercover officers for sex and arranged a meeting at an undisclosed location within the township. But instead of meeting children, they were arrested on felony charges.
Christy Donnelly, an assistant Stark County Prosecutor, said the suspects could face prison or jail time and would have to to register as sex offenders if convicted.