Bringing Light to the Darkness of Human Trafficking (Trafficking in Persons)

Two Ohio men who conspired with a person in Kansas to sex traffic an underage Lake County girl were sentenced Thursday to federal prison terms.

Eric Ho, 25, and Bryan Otero, 27, both from Cincinnati, were two of three men arrested after a 14-year-old girl went missing at the end of April 2017 from her home in unincorporated Lake County between Schererville and Griffith, police said.

Ho and Otero were each indicted in an Ohio federal court in May 2017 with conspiracy to sex traffic children and conspiracy to produce child pornography, court records show.

In December, Otero pleaded guilty to conspiracy to sex traffic children, while Ho pleaded guilty to both counts, according to court records.

Ho was sentenced Thursday to 30 years in prison followed by 10 years of supervised release, court records show, while Otero was sentenced to 10 years in prison followed by 10 years of supervised release.

Otero requested he be placed in a female institution to serve his prison sentence, court records show.

“Though born biologically male, Otero now identifies as a female,” a sentencing memorandum filed by Otero’s attorney, Thomas Kidd Jr., states.

Ian Smith, 21, pleaded guilty in a federal court in Kansas to one count of production of child pornography, according to his plea deal. He was sentenced in March to 30 years in prison followed by 25 years of supervised release, court records show.

Smith began talking with the 14-year-old girl in August 2016 on social media sites including Kik, Chat-Tango and Skype while Smith was in Kansas and the girl was in Indiana, according to his plea deal.

“In late April and early May of 2017, Eric Ho devised a plan with Ian Smith to bring (the girl) to Cincinnati. Otero was Ho’s roommate at this time,” a memorandum states.

Police previously said Smith picked up the girl from her home about 11 p.m. April 27, 2017, and drove her to Ohio, where he left her with Ho and Otero.

Police found the girl May 2, 2017, in Cincinnati and returned her to her family in Lake County.

“There is no doubt that Otero was involved and committed the offense of conspiracy to sex traffic children,” his memorandum states. “However, in comparison to Ho and Smith, Otero’s conduct was of a different kind.”

Kidd said “it should be noted what Otero did not do. Otero neither sexually assaulted the minor victim nor was found with pornographic images of (the girl),” the memorandum states.

Otero was born with microcephaly, which “is a rare neurological condition in which an infant’s head is significantly smaller than the heads of other children of the same age and sex,” the memorandum states.

While he received mental health assistance as a child for ADHD, autism and bipolar disorder, he did not get treatment as as an adult, according to the memorandum.

“This lack of attention to mental health needs has likely contributed to the poor decision-making and unhelpful relationships entered into by Otero over the last few years,” the memorandum states.

Otero also used marijuana and drank alcohol “to an excessive degree,” and “this abuse of substances has often proved problematic to developing a productive lifestyle,” the memorandum states.

A sentencing memorandum for Ho was not publicly filed in federal court records.

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