CLEVELAND - It was a one-way bus ticket into Northeast Ohio's sex trade.
A 15-year-old girl met Ernest "Tubbs" McClain last fall at a Columbus hotel and he offered her a way to get to Cleveland, where she could make big bucks as a prostitute, according to a sworn affidavit from an FBI agent.
McClain, it seemed, had met the girl at an opportune time.
About a month earlier, she had run away from home after meeting a guy named "Rico" in an online chat room, the agent noted. The guy turned out to be a pimp, and he forced the girl to have sex with men.
But "Rico" got himself arrested for an unknown reason just before McClain arrived on the scene, the affidavit said. McClain was able to move in without anyone to stop him.
The FBI arrested McClain, of Cleveland, in January following an undercover sting at the Ramada hotel in Wickliffe. The FBI learned of the girl after she had somehow escaped from McClain and walked into a youth shelter in Cleveland.
The FBI agent said in court documents that "Tubbs was prostituting her" almost as soon as the girl stepped off the Greyhound.
McClain took digital photographs of the girl and posted them on several web pages as an advertisement that she was "available to meet clients to engage in prostitution," the records show.
"Over approximately a 30-day period, (the girl) was forced to prostitute, on average" 10 times per day," the FBI agent noted. The girl estimated that McClain "forced her to engage in prostitution with over 200 males."
The girl "was not certain where she was every night but stated she was forced to prostitute east, west and south of Cleveland," the affidavit said. "(She) was constantly in fear of her safety and was forced to perform sex acts with Tubbs."
"These pimps will start these young children out of having sex with them first and then putting them out to other persons," said FBI spokesman Scott Wilson.
Charging $100 for a half hour of sex, McClain had to drive the girl to meet the men because she was too young to drive herself. After McClain's arrest, they found kid's toys as well as movies in his SUV.
U.S. Attorney Steve Dettelbach said that human trafficking - which some estimate is the second largest organized crime in the country behind drugs - crushes its victims.
"Treating people, kids, like property -- that's just got to stop," Dettelbach said.
Brittany White, a prostitute who worked with McClain, said the feds have it all wrong. "He's not that type of person," White said of McClain. "Anything anybody did was on their own. He looks out for the people around him."
But court documents tell a different story.
The FBI agent said the girl remembered "after being forced to have sex with five or six individuals the only thing she requested was a bath. Tubbs ... advised her that she could not take a bath and provided her with a ... wipe ... and told her to get back to work."
There is good news to this story, said Wilson.
"The day after we arrested McClain she was recovered in Cleveland here hiding in an apartment," he said.