Frankfort is the capital city of Kentucky, with a population of roughly 26,000 residents. Prostitution and sex trafficking are well-documented problems within the city since the 1980s. A recent case involved state legislators and police officers allegedly involved in a prostitution ring in Franklin County. Among the tactics used to address these crimes are reverse stings. For example, in January 2018 four men were charged for allegedly traveling to Frankfort to have sex with a minor after making arrangements online, according to an announcement by the attorney general. “Operation Shielded Child” was a web based reverse sting focused on finding those who solicit minors for sex online and possess or distribute child pornography. The Cyber Crimes Unit led the sting. The names and photos of the arrestees were publicly disclosed.
In May, 2019, four men were arrested in a two-day undercover “Operation Shielded Child” predator sting in Franklin County. Beshear’s Cyber Crimes Unit conducted the operation in as part of its mission to arrest those who seek sex with children online and produce, possess or distribute child pornography. AG cyber investigators made the arrests with the assistance of the Frankfort Police Department, Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, Franklin County Jail, Lexington Police Department and Louisville Metro Police Department.
In October, 2019, a former Franklin County constable pleaded guilty to one felony count of promoting prostitution and some misdemeanor charges. The 70 year old Frankfort resident was originally charged with one count of kidnapping a minor, three counts of impersonating a peace officer and one count of promoting prostitution, all felonies. In addition to pleading guilty to one felony count of promoting prostitution, the felony charge of kidnapping a minor was reduced in Franklin County Circuit Court to one misdemeanor count of unlawful imprisonment. The three felony counts of impersonating a peace officer were reduced to three counts of misdemeanor criminal attempt to impersonate a police officer. The prosecution suggested Banta be sentenced to three years in prison for promoting prostitution, one year for unlawful imprisonment and one year for attempting to impersonate a peace officer. His sentencing was scheduled for January 2000. According to a previous State Journal report, the man served as a Franklin County constable from 2011 to 2014. He also ran an unlicensed private investigation service where he allegedly operated a prostitution ring. A woman reported the man to authorities in 2015. The woman said she met the defendant when she was an eighth-grade cheerleader and he was a football coach, and she had been working for him in prostitution for over 20 years. In addition to providing sex for clients two days a week, the woman said she was required to give “Boss” sex for free anytime he wanted. Several other witnesses testified they had the same experience. Court documents in the case said he would require the women working for him to sometimes participate in group sex and that sometimes sexual encounters were recorded.
- Frankfort Police Department
- Cyber Crimes Unit
- Attorney General’s Office
- Franklin County Sheriff’s Office
- Franklin County Jail
- Lexington Police Department
- Louisville Metro Police Department
- Web Based Reverse Stings:
- “4 men accused of traveling to Frankfort to have sex with minor in online sting.” Kentucky.com, January, 2018
- https://www.state-journal.com/2019/05/19/ag-4-men-caught-in-frankfort-child-predator-sting/ (2019)
- https://www.wdrb.com/news/arrested-in-franklin-county-child-predator-sting (2019)
- https://www.wlky.com/article/multiple-men-arrested-in-frankfort-child-predator-sting (2019)
- “Pastor in Frankfort Accused of Soliciting 2 for Prostitution,” Lexington Herald-Leader, August 12 1988.
- https://www.state-journal.com/former-constable-pleads-guilty-to-promoting-prostitution-kidnapping-charge (2019)
- Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “Ex-Legislative Employee Is Sentenced to Probation,” Park City Daily News, August 18 1998.
- “Former Franklin Co. Constable Accused in Prostitution Ring,” CBS/WKYT-TV 36, May 3 2016.
- “Former Franklin Co. Constable Answers to Prostitution Charges,” CBS/WKYT-TV 36, May 6 2016.
- “Franklin County Judge Will Not Seal Records in Prostitution Case,” CBS/WKYT-TV 36, May 23 2016.
- “Names Redacted in Banta Discovery,” Frankfort State Journal, May 24 2016.
- “Prostitution Ring Allegedly Served Kentucky Lawmakers and Police; No Names of Clients Mentioned in Court Records,” Lexington Herald-Leader, May 25 2016.
- “Lawmakers, Police Officers Alleged Clients in Frankfort Prostitution Ring,” CBS/WKYT-TV 36, May 27 2016.
- “City Quiet among Discovery Claims,” Frankfort State Journal, June 17 2016.