Lorain County man found guilty in county’s 1st human trafficking trial

Published: May. 1, 2023 at 11:23 PM EDT|Updated: May. 11, 2023 at 1:17 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - A Lorain County jury found Steven Gilbert, 36, guilty in the county’s first ever human trafficking trial Monday.

Gilbert’s convictions are in connection to his use of violence and manipulation to run a prostitution ring that trafficked and brutalized multiple women.

Steven Gilbert
Steven Gilbert((Source: Lorain County Sheriff))

The jurors found Gilbert guilty of 29 counts, which including:

  • Seven counts of Trafficking in Persons, with firearm specifications and a human trafficking specification
  • Three counts of Engaging in a Pattern of Corrupt Activity, with forfeiture specifications
  • Two counts of Rape, one with a firearm specification
  • Three counts of Kidnapping, two with a firearm specification
  • One count of Aggravated Robbery, with a firearm specification
  • Five counts of Compelling Prostitution, with firearm and human trafficking specifications
  • One count of Sexual Battery, with a firearm specification
  • Two counts of Money Laundering, with forfeiture specifications
  • Five counts of Promoting Prostitution, with firearm and human trafficking specifications.

Lorain County Common Pleas Judge James Miraldi also found Gilbert guilty of two counts of having weapons while under disability, which are third-degree felonies.

The sentencing and a hearing on the sexually violent predator specifications included in the indictment are set for May 11.

If convicted of those specifications, Gilbert faces a potential life sentence on top of the hundreds of years that he already faces for his convictions on the other charges and specifications.

“Steven Gilbert used a reign of violence and psychological terror to prey upon vulnerable women,” said Prosecutor Tomlinson. “He committed the most unimaginable violations of human rights we’ve seen in Lorain County, and we will not tolerate it.”

Prosecutor Tomlinson said, “I want to thank my assistant prosecutors as well as our Office’s victim advocates and investigators for their diligent work in bringing Gilbert to justice.”

Multiple law enforcement agencies, including the Lorain County Sheriff’s Office, the Lorain County Drug Task Force, and the Elyria Police Department, collaborated during the investigation.

Prosecutor Tomlinson continued, “This trial is a true testament to the collaborative environment between the Prosecutor’s Office and police agencies. Our community and I have tremendous gratitude for the law enforcement officers involved in this investigation.”

According to HTCourts.org, a group committed to ending human trafficking, Ohio has the fourth-worst ratio of human trafficking incidents in the nation.

Despite the prevalence of human trafficking, convictions at the state level are exceedingly difficult to obtain.

Based on statistics compiled in the Ohio Attorney General’s most recent Human Trafficking Report, there were only 14 human trafficking convictions in 2021 across the entire state.

Another study shows that state prosecutors across the nation only have a 45% conviction rate in human trafficking cases.

Even though human trafficking cases are difficult to prosecute, Prosecutor Tomlinson has made human trafficking prevention and prosecution an enforcement priority, the county said.

The prosecution of Gilbert for human trafficking is the first ever in Lorain County’s history.

Since 2021, the prosecutor’s office has overseen three human trafficking operations that have resulted in 22 arrests and has collaborated with other agencies in Operation Ohio Knows, which resulted in 161 arrests across the state and the recovery of 10 missing children.