COLUMBUS, Ohio (WSYX) — A Columbus City Schools teacher has been arrested by the Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost and Columbus Police Chief Elaine Bryant announced Wednesday.
Robert Pea, 60, of Columbus, was arrested Wednesday morning and is charged with one count of compelling prostitution.
The Northland High School teacher is accused of contacting a 16-year-old girl through an online advertisement to have sex at a hotel in Reynoldsburg. Court records show, Pea had agreed to pay the girl $80 in exchange for sex.
"This morning, we arrested him at Northland High School. Luckily, none of the students were in school because today was a teacher work day,” said Sgt. Dana Hess, director of the Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force.
According to Columbus City Schools, Pea was a social studies teacher, boys bowling and golf coach at Northland High School and has been with the district since 1998.
Hess says the investigation began in August after detectives received multiple tips about a teen who was possibly a sex-trafficking victim. After several interviews and cell phone data, they were able to identify Pea as a potential suspect.
"We started investigating the primary targets for this case and during the course of our investigation, we uncovered the teacher who was a sex buyer, who was paying for sex with the victim,” said Hess.
On Monday, Pea was interviewed by agents and not long after, investigators filed a charge of compelling prostitution against him.
"We wanted to act as quickly as possible, so he was no longer in contact with any children,” said Hess.
As for the victim, Hess says she's safe.
"She attends a private school, she is currently in the custody of her mother, and she is undergoing counseling, so she is safe,” said Hess.
Columbus City Schools said, Pea has been assigned to home without pay while he is incarcerated. If he is released, his assignment to home will be paid.