BELTON — Twenty men were arrested in Salado and Killeen by the Bell County Sheriff’s Department in a two-day prostitution sting.
Thirteen of the men were active-duty soldiers and ranked from private to major, Sheriff Eddy Lange said Tuesday at a news conference.
“Most likely their military careers will be affected,” Lange said.
“I tasked the Special Crimes Unit with proactive law enforcement against human sex trafficking, which is a problem in Bell County,” Lange said. “The sting (which took only 16 hours) was held in conjunction with the McLennan County Sheriff’s Office.”
Five men were arrested in a Salado hotel, and the remaining 15 men were arrested in a Killeen hotel. All bonded out.
Online ads were placed and investigators waited. The first contact was made in less than 20 minutes, Lange said.
The online ads led to texting back and forth to agree upon a location and price, which was based on what the predators wanted, Maj. T.J. Cruz said.
Lt. Michele Cianci, Special Crimes Unit director, said the prices generally ranged from $60 to $200, depending on what sexual act they wanted and how long they wanted it.
Two men may face felony charges. One asked for sex with someone under the age of 18 and another wanted a “two-fer” — sex with a minor and an older woman, Cruz said.
Some of those arrested had previous criminal histories.
Quite a few women responded to the ad, but none of them showed up, Cianci said.
One man came from Waco to pay for sex because he said the Waco area “was too hot,” according to Lange.
Another man had his wife and mother waiting in a car in the parking lot, Cruz said.
Cruz, Cianci, a female deputy who played the role of prostitute, and others greeted the men as soon as they walked through the hotel room’s door. Cianci said their faces registered shock and anger, and some fought the officers or tried to run away.
The arrested men were booked in the room, which speeded up the process. Deputies were staged both inside and outside the hotel.
The hotels didn’t know the sting was happening until some offenders tried to run, Cruz said.
Lange stressed it’s unknown who you’re really dealing with on the other end of a computer, and that his department is concerned about the safety of the victims and the ones preying on them for paid sex.
“We’re putting predators on notice,” Lange said. “We’ll be doing this on a regular basis. We want this area to be known as ‘too hot.’”
Those arrested were:
Denzel Renold Clifton, 24, of Cameron
Robert Darryl Lassiter Jr., 33, of North Homestead, Ohio
Maj. Donta Andrew White, 34, 89th Military Police Brigade, of Harker Heights
Warrant Officer 1 Gregory Dwayne Hughes, 34, 1st Combat Service Support Battalion, of Copperas Cove
Romelle People, 49, of Waco
Dontae Johnson, 35, of Nolanville
Spc. Jimmie Joiner, 23, 3rd Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, of Lorena
Staff Sgt. Kendrick Davis, 27, 57th Signal Battalion, of Copperas Cove
Master Sgt. Stanley Lamar Ervin, 41, 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, of Killeen
Pvt. Xavier Ernest Horne, 22, 2nd Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, of Fort Hood
Sean Gregory Muselman, 41, of Temple
David Lamar Hunter, 47, of Killeen
Pfc. Adrian Jamill Upshaw, 22, 3rd Cavalry, of Killeen
Sgt. Carlos Castillo, 33, 411 Military Police Company, of Fort Hood
Joseph Anthony Bartolomi, 44, of Killeen
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Ernest Grant, 39, Warrior Transition Unit, of Killeen
Leonard Grant Slade III, 30, of Killeen
Staff Sgt. Natalion Seymour, 38, 2nd Chemical Battalion, of Salado
Spc. Christopher John Webster, 32, III Corps, of Temple
Sgt. Michael Paul Cyril Culpepper, 36, 1st Cavalry, of Killeen
Fort Hood did not provide information on who the 13th soldier was.
Herald staff writer Julie A. Ferraro provided additional information for this report.