Episode 7- 25 Miles South
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Welcome to the painting massacre a production of iheartradio and katie studios. There were always these rumors about michael moran and the women that he was around the circles he ran in this guy trafficking women all over the country from this little town. It's known as the epicenter of the opioid epidemic public knowledge. That was the crazy thing. Everybody knew the rumors and had known somebody that knew somebody that worked for him. Abors in it to michael ryan's name his cell phone number. I had all this remains that really impacted our area a lot of closure to these families who are told nothing by our local officials are local for this is the pike and massacre returned to pike county season. Two episode seven twenty five miles south. I'm courtney armstrong a television producer at kt studios with stephanie. Lie decker and jeff. Shane in episode five of this season. We explored the allegations of corruption and the subsequent arrest of pike county. Sheriff charlie reader but his story is just one of many that has illuminated alleged abuses of power perpetrated by those involved in southern. Ohio's criminal justice system so in this episode. We wanna focus on another case that has long affected a community. Just twenty five miles south of piked in in a town called portsmouth. Ohio in two thousand fifteen reporter named nicky blankenship began investigating rumors of human trafficking in the town like many small ohio. Town's portsmouth has a long rich history of industrial might preceding an era of rapid urban decay. Here's james pilcher. Reporter for local twelve news and cincinnati. Speaking with our producer. Chris graves the county seat of kyoto. County which right below pike county. So it's about thirty to forty five minutes out. The pike portsmouth has this. Rust belt burned out industrial field. There are half empty to empty factories in the middle of the city at one point. Us shoe had biggest plant there. And then obviously you know the global economy and we all know what happened to manufacturing in the mid west it still has a small profitable steel mill. Downtown it's barely hanging on. So kyle a city that was forgotten when the manufacturing industry began to disappear. Portsmouth was besieged by the drug trade nikki. Blankenship grew up in the area and saw the devastation firsthand. Your areas been really hit by the opiate crisis right. Yeah we call ourselves. Ground zero for the opioid epidemic. I've lived in ohio. Since nineteen eighty-four insider counties. Yeah lived here my whole life. I remember in highschool people around me. They would start out with small pain pills and oxycontin hit and it was no longer recreational drug use. That people were doing that parties. You're seeing people become addicted very very very quickly in two thousand eight. Nikki started writing about the issue for a local newspaper. I started out covering the drug epidemic. I was the first in the area to do stories on oxycontin looking at overdose rates in the area and started asking those questions from the coroner's office. About how many of these deaths that we're seeing are connected to opiate use and then started looking into komo's and we ended up shutting down over twenty three helmets inside a county nikki's reporting helps at a late on the areas drug problem but other elicit industries sprung up around it. Nikki was there to cover it all and twenty thirteen. I did a series that ran for months on prostitution and i was walking the streets with these growth. I also talked to you like parents of one then that we're working on the streets and talk to officers about the problem and local businesses about how it affected It was interesting. Because when i was doing these stories i started seeing a lot of names. Come up from these girls. The one mentioned most often was michael. Moran michael moran. He's in his mid seventies long-time defense attorney. You know the you is drug offenses those kinds of things yet. His own firm in portsmouth and at one point in the late two thousands got himself appointed as a city. Councilman of portsmouth is a very public person. So if there was a red cross danquah or something covering he would be there. So he's he's been around my whole career pretty much now. Rumors had been circulating about mike moran for years they stories about him being involved in prostitution prostitution god way back to the seventies. A lot of those stories are just about him. Hiring grows stance and Apple local parties and poker gangs. It was a secret the everyone choked about but no one really talked about and it was pretty common knowledge. I think. I mentioned like a red cross bank. I had to cover once. He was air with a girl known to be arrested for prostitution known to be arrested for drug abuse and she was there you could tell that. She was under the influence her behavior. She being very loud. I'm on a cell phone with this. And speaking very appropriately for the study and like just laughing with her at westerly councilman at the time. Actually wendover towards me jokingly elbow me in the side than said. There's mike at one of his girls. It's just always been known as nikki began exploring maran's ties to the local sex trade. The story grew much darker. I was interviewing some people who were in an inpatient treatment facility. And i found out that one of the women over the program was involved with a human trafficking program and so i started talking with her about human trafficking and she said that when women are arrested eleazar major moran has been going to see them in jail and charges and exchange floor doing sexual favors for him and working in prostitution nikki. Further explain the allegations levelled against moran by area. Women that the crux of what he does is. He offers his legal services to get these women out of jail and then put some under his employee. Yes he gets women out of gel and basically gets into his clutches. Our stories are the people are hired as dog walkers or as cleaners and and said are actually working in prostitution. An affidavit filed by the. Da would later support these accounts. James explained that this method of manipulation marks the distinction between prostitution and human trafficking from people will say oh well these women knew what they were doing. They were just trying to make money. These women were prostitutes. Well if you talk to the experts it went one step beyond that. It went into trafficking because some of those allegations moran was holding over them the fact that they were drug addicts even he would withhold their money or withhold. Their money wherewithal to get drunk so the statute says if you withhold or threatened to withhold money that women need for drugs or withhold. The drugs trafficking. 'cause it's coercion anytime you can prove coercion. It's traffic both in ohio law in federal. 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Shell brothers is now building new homes and ten unique communities across tax friendly coastal delaware with twelve models available to virtually tour you can discover shaw brothers unique curb appeal and sensational floor plans from the comfort of your own home. Spring is the perfect time to start planning your dream home to start exploring shall brothers has to offer visit us today at shell. Brothers dot com models currently open by appointment. Only some believe michael moran's reached goes farther than even human trafficking in two thousand thirteen. A portsmouth woman. They meghan lancaster disappeared. Michael moran has denied any involvement or responsibility in her disappearance. Additionally authorities have not brought any charges against him in the case at this time it's unclear whether they have questioned him in the matter. Megan is probably the case that is closest to my heart than that's mostly her sister-in-law catering catcher has screamed in screaming the screen on her behalf. My name is katie lancaster the sister-in-law amvest friend of megan lancaster who's been missing from soda counties since april third two thousand and thirteen who was Megan lancaster and how did you meet. We met at a called saturday county joint vocational school. We were taking calls mythology and she is a wonderful loving. Give the shirt off her back person that i know for a fact that this tragedy had to happen to anybody. She would have given everything she had to save the next person. Megan katie formed and unbreakable bond and soon became family members. I was spending about every night with megan. Pretty much donskoy. Megan would say my brother wants to take you on a day. So as to the okay. Okay like i'll take me for dinner so on and so forth and i did that. Well i never left. I was seventeen and we just hit it off and ellen rob katie and megan's brother jimmy were married in two thousand and five a few months later. Katie became pregnant soon after. Megan did as well. I went into labor august. Thirty first had my baby. September first like in the middle of the night and she had her baby november force. Though we were legitimately only you know a couple months. Apart in two thousand six meghan gave birth to a son named reese. Being a young single mother was tough but megan seem to have a bright future ahead of her. In sports she played she played to the fullest. She was there for her team. Always tearing everybody on the softball. She was the pitcher. She had a full ride scholarship to shawny state. I mean emmy nagin couldn't have been any smarter than what she was. Despite her intelligence and athleticism megan fell victim to the drug epidemic. That gripped the portsmouth area. She was that you know that she used drugs. That she used a needle. It was rough and i would tell her. I would say meagan. I would try to play. Both sides like her friend and her sister-in-law. I would say megan. You need to get helping. You need to change for you first and foremost what at the same time. You need to do it for rees because he needs in. Our answer was katie. Why change it. Now everybody's gonna look at me the same way. I'm never gonna live down the things i've done. I'm never be able to change that opinion that people have of me. She just couldn't pass the past. He you know of things that she felt people would never forgive. And then the point took over megan and it led to more years later a strange encounter with meghan would leave katie forever. Suspicious of one local man. Michael moran. I was in walmart with jeremy. And all of a sudden i see megan gump bouncing down. The i'm unlike what the l. was she wear. It was literally lingerie to be honest. Because you said. I'm here to get something for this party. I'm doing for moran. It's a bachelor party. And i'm dislike okay but again what what. Why are you in here in the. Is this what. I'm wearing to the party. And i'm like get whatever you're getting and get the heck out of here before you get arrested for indecent exposure. Can you describe april third. Twenty thirteen april third twenty. Thirteen meghan went missing that day. She was with her mom as she went to her. Mom's early in the morning said mom. I need to pay my insurance. Because she had been pulled over in cold war record been impounded for literally like sixty dollars in back child support or something so her mom followed her to portsmith nagin got in her mom's card imports with they wrote down to the bonding company. They paid her insurance then got back in her own car her mustang and they went their own ways later that day. Megan culture mother marcie to make arrangements to see her son. She said mom. I'll be there to stay the night with race but that night meghan never showed up in the next day march Get a hold over. Couldn't went buyer apartment. Her car wasn't there more stop. She's out running the streets or whatever you know run in the roads much more about it. Two days later on april fifth megan's car was found in the parking lot of a local fast food restaurant. She was nowhere to be found. What second about the car was the fact that it was up on the curb and megan would never have parked it like that. She especially she might pulled in if she was in a hurry again. God out and got something got right back in the car and left but she would have never pulled in there to leave it there like that inside. the car. police found megan's wallet and a small notebook that contains some suspicious entries. She left clues as to who she'd been working for which even up to yes. She left abors in it. They actually said dance. Four and michael. Maran's name his cell phone number and how much he paid her to dance. We know we have. This problem is missing and we know we have this problem with women. Hope if found dead in their cases never their murders of never been solved and despite that car set her mom talked to twenty thirteen. And there's Documents where they took it where they took. The car to evidence dated showing that and it was really katie. And megan's family that did all of the investigating and hire private investigators. They took get any cooperation from local police. So it's megan's case really. It's the only one that has really been made public so people can see exactly what these women have gone through and how these things have happened. My an was running a decades long sex trafficking operation. We're talking about some serious abuse of power. What are your thoughts on that. Abuse of power makes me completely fucking sick. Excuse my language. But i don't know how else to put. It makes me sick because you know. He's in this position to help people to help rebuild their lives if a vin in trouble once or twice drug charge whatever they send them to treatment. They do this. They do that but he takes it a step further and takes them like bison what they want courses them into these things that they've never had before and then boom. That's on drugs back to doing what they were doing. Back in trouble and to me. That is sickening. And there's no excuse for it. Do you think. Mike moran is involved in making spirits. I do believe. Michael moran is involved in megan's disappearance and i do believe that we will eventually tie mike moran q. megan's disappearance. Let's stop here for another quick break. We'll be back. In a moment we're making lower emission. Vehicles are priority reusable packaging our priority and carbon capture research to offset emissions our priority because earth is our priority at fedex. We knew sustainability. Means a lot to you and we feel the same way. Our goal is to be carbon neutral by two thousand fourteen. We call it priority earth fedex. Were now meets snacks. Hi everyone this is tamra bridget. And adrian habit and with host of sweat the details a brand new podcast from under obama and iheart radio. It's a show or women by women. Aim to spotlight leading voices in today's fitness industry. The bigger relationship the more fun you have with your team at south carolina and ah dallas slings. It wasn't so much of my teammates was more my sister's it was a sisterhood. That was our circle in nothing. Could break our circle or von. We're ready to shake up what it means to be a woman in sport. Today it's compensations fueled by the latest scientific research about personal fitness. Listen to sweat the details on the iheartradio app apple podcast or wherever you get your podcast. What's it like to go through losing a family member or friend but not actually knowing what happened to them it's hell. I was talking to my mother-in-law about this today. You know people lose people all the time and they have a grave to somewhere they can go visit that they show that that person is there or they have ashes. They have for whatever. What have you. But we have a flipping sign with missing on it that we decorate and it is heartbreaking heart. Not to know whether she's hungry she's cold. She's meeting her to abuse or worse she's dead not to know that is so hope i see her. Mom susser daily on courtly. I see her. Pay me boy suffer very badly and i'm not saying that you know. He cries every day or no not saying. Here's a lot of questions we can't answer but i can guarantee you. I will stop talking. Answer surmount care if he's twenty five thirty thirty five forty Around that long. I'll fight until i can answer this questions for him. In an interview moran claimed that he only knew megan as a police informant who is tied to with drug case. He tried years back when asked about what may have happened to. Her moran believed that she may have been murdered though. He had no information to support his statement. It should be noted that there have been no other specific allegations tying moran to the disappearance of any other women nikki. Blankenship continued her investigation into human trafficking in portsmouth but her attempt to report on the areas missing women was met with some pushback. You kind of started this with this story. The seemed to have been local knowledge that no one was reporting on right when i was. I saying. Talk about the missing women. I was told that it didn't matter if there was proof it was. Can we talk about the missing women. Can i talk to their families. I was told nikki. Didn't let that stop her. So i i have seen these things personally insider cownie. We say that everyone's affected because if it's not your friend is or your family member. It's at least you went to school with everybody. Know somebody who's been affected by the drug epidemic and everybody knows somebody who has turned costitution so this is a pretty personal story for you. Yeah i spent highly my whole career. I like working on this and nobody was listening to their stories before or seeing them as even human. That really made me connect with a lot of these people in their stories. Living here my whole life these are my friends and my family members as well not specifically. I have so many friends overdose. I have so. Many inset have battled addiction and a lot of people i went to school with are are gone now. I have several friends from high school that ended up working in prostitution. People are human and yet they're seen as a prostitute or inadequate exactly and that makes people not really care what happens to them that makes people assume that they chose some lifestyle that is dangerous. Amex assume that they somehow are asking for that. Or whatever happens as a part of a lifestyle they chose and so they just turn a blind eye. And i think that's another thing that has made it so easy for to happen and the habit right in public as people see them as prostitutes addicts. Nikki didn't give up. Searching for proof linking michael moran to portsmith sex trafficking industry. I was at home. A lot At night just going through court documents than talking families because l. all these families we always made trusted so then for me it was like how do i get something more than a story from family member or even a girl. I need some proof. Finding some kind of document in two thousand seventeen. She got it. A man named mark eubanks reached out to her and pass along. A copy of a sworn affidavit filed by the drug enforcement agency mark eubanks. He had been reading my stories on human trafficking and on the heroine epidemic. And he smelled me. A copy of the silt. Affidavit was actually a part of his case and had told me history which was he has been arrested on charges and when he was arrested he was immediately taken a given lie detector tests about missing women at dead lemon. Mike moran human trafficking the affidavit lee out southern ohio drug task force and fbi that had been underway since twenty fifteen investigating michael moran and his ties to area sex trafficking. He's accused of trafficking women all over the country from new york and new jersey florida racketeering and compelling at partying prostitution and other thing. That is in the affidavit that he was working traffickers and there was a wiretap where they were able to hear some of the conversations between moran drug traffickers and he was getting drugs from these drug traffickers in order to provide to the females a he had or for him the athol david reciprocally talks about whom working web liberal judges and law enforcement and adult probation. Macy's things happen. Nikki finally had to prove she needed that validated. The stories told by portsmouth's most vulnerable women. But when she brought the document where editor she was shocked. Nato told me no. We're not going to publish. Michael moran would later be arrested and charged with eighteen. Felony counts including promoting prostitution and trafficking in persons He was released on a three hundred thousand dollar bond which was later revoked after he violated the terms of his agreement. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges and staunchly maintains his innocence. He is now under house arrest while he awaits trial. We'll bring you the second part of the michael moran story in episode nine but next week will be hearing from some of our regular contributors who will discuss updates from accused brother george wagner the force. Most recent pretrial hearing for more information on the case and relevant photos. Follow us on instagram at. Kt underscore studios the piped-in massacre. Returned by county is executive produced by stephanie. Lie decker and me. Courtney armstrong editing and sound design by executive producer. Jared aston additional producing by jeff. Shane andrew becker and chris graves. The pike massacre returned to pay. County is a production of iheartradio and katie studios for more podcasts. From iheartradio visit the iheartradio app apple podcasts. Or wherever you listen to your favorite shows a shell. Brothers is now building new homes in unique communities across tax friendly coastal delaware with twelve models available to virtually tour. You can discover shah unique curb appeal and sensational floor. Plans from the comfort of your own home. Spring is the perfect time to start planning your dream home to start exploring everything. Show others has to offer visit us today at shaw brothers dot com models currently open by appointment only been thinking about mcdonald's all day can't get it off my mind i can already tasted. Oh my mind on my mouth and my mouth ready for some mickey. D's deal is a deal for every moment at mcdonald's right now get to your favorites for just. Three fifty makes magic. Classic mcchicken a hot and spicy chicken or a juicy mcdonnell price and participation may vary cannot be combined with combo meal single item at regular price.