Ten men face felony charges of attempting to purchase sex from minors following a joint-sting investigation in Cookeville.
A Putnam County Grand Jury indicted the men, ranging in age from 19 to 51, May 8th. Eight of the ten men have been taken into custody, according to the DA’s office.
District Attorney General Bryant Dunaway announced the sting Thursday. The February 15-17 operation produced more than 697 unique callers responding to a Backpage Dot Com ad.
“I find it disturbing and tragic that there is even a need to conduct such an investigation in our community,” Dunaway said. “The District Attorney’s office and our law enforcement partners will continue to be proactive in the fight to protect children victims.”
TBI agents posed as individuals offering sex on the site under the Women Seeking Men section. During text or phone conversations that followed, the agents identified themselves as being 14-17 years old. The ten indicted men agreed to meet the women and traveled to the meeting place.
Dunaway said the ad garnered more than five-thousand contacts including phone calls and texts. Some of the contacts continued to talk or text with the women even after finding out their ages.
“As significant as these arrests are, we are only scratching the surface,” Cookeville Police Chief Randy Evans said.
Five men face class-A felonies of patronizing prostitution. They include 28-year-old Justin Adcock of Algood, 42-year-old Nicanor Baraiac of Lenoir City, 18-year Marcus Clark of Monroe, 21-year-old Lance Hatmaker of Carthage, 19-year-old Nathaniel Stalnaker of Cookeville.
Those charged with class-B felonies include 34-year-old Daniel Baltazar of Cookeville, 51-year-old Kenneth Hobbs of Dunlap, and Matthew Kenty, age 18 of Birmingham.
Dunaway said the patronizing prostitution charges will be punished as commercial sex trafficking because the victims were minors under the age of 18-year-old.
An A felony means the alleged victims were under the age of 15-years-old. B felonies mean the alleged victims were over the age of 15-years-old. An A felony carries a greater punishment.
Cookeville Police, the Putnam County Sheriffs Department, Homeland Security and the TBI collaborated on the investigation.