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Franklin County is a county of about 52,000 residents located in northern Kentucky. Its county seat is Frankfort, the state capital. Prostitution and sex trafficking have been well-documented problems within the county since the 1980s. For example, in May 2016, a grand jury indicted a 69-year-old man on charges of kidnapping, a Class B felony, and three counts of impersonating a peace officer and promoting prostitution (two or more prostitutes), a Class D felony. The man had served as a Franklin County constable from 2011 to 2014 and ran an unlicensed private investigation service, and was accused of running a prostitution ring out of the business on Louisville Road. According to court records, a woman came forward with information against the man in early January 2015, saying she had met the defendant when she was an eighth-grade cheerleader and he was a football coach and that she had been sexually exploited by him ever since. The woman alleged that when she was a teenager the man paid her $500 to be sexually abused by another male. Thereafter the man would tell her when and where to go and that she would either be paid by him or directly by a sex buyer to perform sexual acts. According to her testimony, she was sex trafficked by him two days each week, being sexually abused by 15 to 20 men per day, and that as a condition of her “employment” the former constable got free sex any time he wanted. Multiple additional women were also required to provide the man with sex free of charge, and to serve in prostitution. The defendant would reportedly arrange for girls to be sexually abused by him and sex buyers and that the men also enjoyed watching the girls have sex with young teenage boys. Court documents also included a statement from one female, stating that the defendant specifically mentioned one man who would pay $500 to women who would have sex with his dog. In 2020, the defendant reached a plea agreement and was required to donate $5,000 to Women of the Well Ministry in Louisville at the orders of the Franklin County Circuit Court. He was sentenced to five years of supervised probation after pleading guilty in October to promoting prostitution, a Class D felony, and unlawful imprisonment and three counts of criminal attempt to impersonate a peace officer, both Class A misdemeanors.
To address local problems with prostitution and sex trafficking, sex buyers have been arrested and had their identities released to the public. 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 sexually abuse 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 solicited minors for sex online and possessed or distributed child sexual abuse materials (i.e., 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. The Cyber Crimes Unit conducted the operation in as part of its mission to arrest those who seek sexual access to children online and produce, possess or distribute CSAM. 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.
- Franklin County Sheriff’s Office
- Frankfort Police Department
- Cyber Crimes Unit
- Attorney General’s Office
- 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.
Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “Franklin County Man, 19, Charged with Human Trafficking,” CBS/WKYT-TV 36, July 19 2015.
- https://www.state-journal.com/news/court-date-set-for-prostitution-kidnapping-cases-against-former-constable (2019)
- https://www.state-journal.com/crime/banta-sentenced-to-probation-for-promoting-prostitution-impersonating-an-officer (2020)
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.