Preliminary hearings set Oct. 15

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By Carol McIntire and Eric Lowe

Four men are facing sex-related charges in connection with a sting operation conducted in the Amsterdam area last week.

According to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department, Raymond (Paul) Bright, 63, of Amsterdam; Kyle Vinka, 30, of Bergholz; and Jason Clutter, 36, of Minerva, are all being held in the county jail on charges of importuning, a fifth-degree felony.

Bright and Clutter are being held on $50,000 bonds, which were set during video arraignments Oct. 9 before Judge Michael Bednar.

Chad Vahalik, of 400 Liberty St., Amsterdam, was also indicted on importuning. He indicated he will obtain his own legal counsel and was released on bond,

Bright, of 6231 Steubenville Rd., was appointed a public defender in the case.

Clutter, whose address is listed as 205 Murray Ave., Minerva, was appointed a public defender. 

Vinka, of 287 Second St., Bergholz, was arraigned Oct. 9 via video conference, but no bond amount was set.

Vinka has a previous record in Wintersville court. He was convicted of domestic violence on June 20, 2020, and sentenced to 30 days in the justice center with 30 days suspended. He was to serve six months of house arrest and ordered to attend anger management classes. A charge for  violating a protection order was dismissed.

Preliminary hearings are scheduled Oct. 15, at 10 a.m.  for all four.

Amsterdam Police Officer Tyler Yoho said the sting operation, called “Operation Trick or Treat – To Catch a Predator” came about after he received complaints from village residents.

Yoho said a social media account was set up with an undercover cop posing as an underage female.

“The decoy had hits within 48 hours of the operation being set up,” Yoho told a Messenger reporter. “These individuals who solicited sexual acts and arranged to meet with our decoy are the result of this operation’s effort to address the complaints received in our department.”

Mayor Jim Phillips said he plans to ask Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney Jeff Bruzzese to seek the maximum sentence in these cases.

“I want everyone to know this isn’t an ‘Amsterdam problem’, this is a global crisis,” he said. “If this goes to trial, I will humbly ask the judge the same thing. We are sending a very clear message: the Amsterdam Police Dept. and myself will not tolerate predators in our village. We will do everything in our power to make sure justice is served.”

The operation was a combined effort by the Amsterdam Police Department, Jefferson County Prosecutors Office, Bergholz Police Department, Carroll County Sheriff’s Dept. and Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.

Any other individuals who believe they are victims of a crime by these individuals or any other individuals, should contact Amsterdam Police Department at 740-543-3797 or Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office at 740-284-3350.

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