A former Belton police officer and three active-duty Fort Hood soldiers are among 10 suspects arrested in a prostitution and sex trafficking sting, officials announced Friday afternoon.
The Bell County Sheriff’s Department said each suspect is charged with solicitation of prostitution, formerly a Class A misdemeanor but now a state jail felony effective Sept. 1 under House Bill 2975.
Mark Williams, a former Belton police officer, and active-duty soldiers Christopher Knox, Marc Sanon and James Gradys were arrested along with Billy Williams, Eric Kilton, Brian Turner, Francisco Tamez, Shane Pagel and Michael Morris, the Sheriff’s Department said.
“Mr. Williams has not worked in Belton for more than two decades,” Belton spokesman Paul Romer said Friday afternoon.
The dates of Williams’ employment were not immediately known Friday since he was not listed in the city’s database of employees from the past 20-plus years, Romer said. Paper documents that contain his employment information are in storage, he said.
The sting was conducted Tuesday through Thursday by the Sheriff’s Department and the Texas Department of Public Safety in coordination with Fort Hood law enforcement, according to a news release.
Five suspects were arrested Tuesday as an undercover female deputy was staged at a location during the sting, dubbed John Suppression Initiative Operation.
Five others were arrested with the help of an undercover deputy on Thursday, the department said.
“The purpose of the operation is to crackdown on sex trafficking and to identify/arrest individuals seeking sexual acts in exchange for a fee in Bell County,” the Sheriff’s Department said in the news release. “The operation was conducted in the Temple-Killeen area of Bell County.”
The sting involved authorities placing advertisements on known online sites to attract people interested in buying sexual services.
“The goal of the operation was geared toward the people aka “Johns” responding to advertisements; ultimately, attacking the demand side of prostitution,” the Sheriff’s Department said. “If there is no demand, there is no need for the service.”