BELTON — Thirty Central Texas men — including one armed with a gun, knife, body bag and rope — were arrested in a two-day prostitution sting by the Bell County Sheriff’s Department and the Temple Police Department.

Spc. Tyler Willison, 24, a member of the 3rd Cavalry Regiment at Fort Hood, came into a Temple hotel room with four strands of rope and a knife in his pants pockets. A body bag, duct tape and a gun were found during a subsequent search of Willison’s vehicle, Bell County Sheriff Eddy Lange said during a news conference.

“We probably prevented a serious crime somewhere,” Lange said.

Fort Hood will consider all evidence presented by local authorities when determining whether action is appropriate in Willison’s case, Fort Hood officials said Thursday.

“Fort Hood officials cooperate with local authorities involving crimes committed by soldiers in the local community. Ultimately, Fort Hood maintains authority to prosecute soldiers once the command is presented with evidence of misconduct under the Uniform Code of Military Justice,” Fort Hood officials said.

The 30 suspects range in age from 17 to 57.

Also arrested were Marcus Phy Brown, Travis Hunt, Nathan Murray, Barron Ramsey, Darragnan Seay, Toby Culp, Fernando Gomez, Zeb Johnson, Brandon Lemus, Robert Martinez, Brandon McMeen, Conrad Rogers and Ernest Soto, all of Temple; Spc. Andrew Kuhn, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Spec. Ralph Phelan, 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, and Spc. Richard Swanson, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, all of Fort Hood; Jose Moreno and James Gattison, Killeen; Christopher Colwell, Salado; Kenneth Solack, Kempner; Frank Ceballos, Copperas Cove; Joseph Holland, Chilton; Luis Rivas, Morgan’s Point Resort; Austin Woodward, Briggs; Clinton Young, Belton; Luis Lopez-Gomez, Harker Heights; Jose Luna-Gonzalez, Waco; and Erasmo Maya, Belton.

Lopez-Gomez, Luna-Gonzales and Maya were listed as undocumented immigrants.

After the undocumented immigrants go through the Bell County court system, Immigration and Customs Enforcement will probably deport them, Lange said.

Temple Police Chief Floyd Mitchell said he agreed to join the undercover operation because crime doesn’t stop at the city limits, he said. He was glad to give the resources he had available to attack crime on all levels.

Everyone involved in the two operations played an important part.

Four Temple Police officers assisted Bell County, as did officers from the Bryan Police Department who came to observe and learn how to conduct a sting.

Bell County Special Crimes Unit Investigator Donnie Lohmann handled an average of 5,800 texts in an eight-hour period of time along with the radio, he said.

The Temple Police Department could do a sting of their own but, while they could, it would probably be better to pool resources, Mitchell said.

“Maj. Cruz and Sheriff Lange are doing a very good job in attacking this issue. This is one of the priorities for that department,” Mitchell said.

“Whenever you do an operation like this, it’s hard to be surprised by the number of people you draw into this,” Mitchell said. “Disappointing, yes, but surprising, no.”

Some of those arrested had more charges in addition to prostitution, like possession of drug paraphernalia, resisting arrest and failure to identify as a fugitive. Some are on probation, Lt. Michele Cianci, director of the Special Crimes Unit, said.

Both Lange and Mitchell talked about the importance the involvement of the media plays in fighting human sex trafficking.

At least half of the men arrested asked if their picture would be publicized because they were “scared to death their families would find out,” Lohmann said.

“Putting these people out on ‘Front Street’ is important,” Mitchell said. “Like Sheriff Lange said, you never know who is on the other side of that keyboard. Sometimes public shame costs more than the night in jail.”

(10) comments

cz14

I agree with the sting to catch all the odd balls, I don't agree with the fact that all the GOOD PEOPLE think you have to have a marriage license. A single guy goes out to a club and wines and dines some chick all night and maybe he or she gets lucky. AND BE sure she is over 18 and doesn't have a husband or boy friend waiting out in the parking lot. LEGAL WHORE HOUSES YES ran by the state where the gals work because they want to, have medical check up's and staffed with security. patrons can be screned for green cards and any arrest records checked . AND FOR ALL THE CHURCH GOING PEOPLE CLOSED ON SUNDAY. AND YES THE CITY AND STATE CAN COLLECT TAXES.

Car1957

I may be in the minority; but to me this is a waste of public safety resources setting up prostitution stings. There have to be other priorities and quality of life concerns for law enforcement officials to focus on. I could see if a community is having problems with street walkers; but to set up an internet sting? I don't get it.

EducatedCAJD

Just because you don't get it doesn't mean it is not a dangerous and often deadly way to both plan and execute a crime. The internet allows users anonymity and that is a huge problem. And really you are concerned with other crimes and just skim over the part of the story which puts one of the offenders front and center with not only a rape kit, but a murder and body disposal kit. Sexual predators are on the rise and you feel more comfortable keeping it a dirty little secret and going after other types of criminals? Hate to tell you oh loquacious one but rape, torture and murder are as bad as they come.

Asquad5

What grinds my gears even more about the situation is, the story uses the term "sex trafficking". Sex trafficking is a technical term for forced prostitution. Go on Backpage.com, the site which they probably used to entrap all of these men, and you'll see the women on that site are consenting and fully aware of the risks they are taking by selling themselves on the internet. I understand its illegal and frowned upon, but to put their faces on the front page of the newspaper?

EducatedCAJD

That was TWO WORDS in the entire article. The rape kit and body disposal part in the very first sentences did not catch your eye? There is NOTHING in this crime report that speaks about consensual sex and certainly nothing about consensual murder. It's time to stop calling prostitution a victimless crime. It is not. The prostitute IS a victim and by you or anyone else using him/her for sex you are further victimizing them. Do you think they grow up in a great home with loving parents and say to themselves "Hey when I grow up I want to let disgusting pigs do sexual things to me for a tiny bit of money." And minimizing it by saying it is "Frowned upon?", just shows how clueless you are. Prostitution is a job of desperation not an eager choice. And just what faces are put on the front page? I only see one. And that is the photo of a man who was armed with a knife, gun, duct tape and body bag. What do you think he carries that kind of Rape/Kill/Dispose objects around for?

bossdaddygator

Why is it that Fort Hood Soldiers are listed by name and none of the other subjects are. Why is that the none of the other subjects are listed by name and occupation. Just trying to glamorize a story.

EducatedCAJD

There is NOTHING glamorous about enlisted men paying for sex. And certainly nothing glamorous about risking their reputations and careers to engage in it. Prostitution is a crime and prostitutes are. the number one victims of serial rape and murder. These are supposed to be men serving their country not engaging in sordid activities like paying for sex. Self serve and have a little restrain. There is nothing about using others for sex that is harmless. Nor would it kill them to just keep it in their pants. And when they get caught by all means plaster their photos all over the news. This is NOT what happened here, but perhaps it should be.

Asquad5

Out of ALL the crime going on in Bell County. The drugs, the burglaries, the corruption.....and this is what they do? Arrest men who use their hard earned dollars for some hanky panky? C'mon Bell County you can do better than that.

EducatedCAJD

Hanky Panky? Prostitution is illegal for many reasons but it is first and foremost a very dangerous occupation. I assure you the prostitute is not considering it in any way fun or in any way, shape or form merely hanky panky. I am not in Bell County permanently but I am appalled at the ignorance about this type of thing. You all should be ashamed. One of the largest army bases is located here and you have so called soldiers committing the most heinous of crimes. Think about it. Stealing, assaults, burglaries, rape and more. What does this say about our military? What does it say about the kind of people who enlist? Your comment about Hard Earned Dollars is a cliché. Is there such a thing as easy earned dollars? And if it so hard to earn why use it to pay for a criminal act? Self serve or start away. Prostitution is a crime and a perpetuation of unsafe and often deadly crimes attached to the practice. Grow up. Be an adult not some sleazy man who uses his "hard earned dollars" to further victimize other human beings.

bossdaddygator

You can't make assumptions or stereotype of all the Military by a few knuckleheads. If the media is going to blast all the information about the Soldiers then the same should be done with the civilians.

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