A former Belton police officer and three active-duty soldiers from Fort Hood are among 10 suspects arrested in a prostitution and sex trafficking operation, officials said on 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 prison felony effective September 1 under 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, said the sheriff’s department.
“Mr. Williams has not worked at Belton for over two decades,” Belton spokesman Paul Romer said Friday afternoon.
Williams’ employment dates were not immediately known on Friday as he had not been listed in the city’s employee database for the past 20+ years, Romer said. The paper documents containing his employment information are stored, he said.
The sting was carried out Tuesday through Thursday by the Texas Sheriff’s Department and the Texas Department of Public Safety in coordination with law enforcement in Fort Hood, according to a press release.
Five suspects were arrested on Tuesday as an undercover deputy was staged at a location during the attack, dubbed Operation John Suppression Initiative.
Five other people were arrested Thursday with the help of an undercover deputy, the department said.
“The purpose of the operation is to crack down on sex trafficking and to identify / arrest people seeking sex in return for a fee in Bell County,” the sheriff’s department said in the press release. “The operation was carried out in the Temple-Killeen area of Bell County.”
The sting involved authorities placing advertisements on online sites known to attract people interested in purchasing sex.
“The focus of the operation was on people alias ‘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 service.”