Major T.J. Cruz of the Bell County Sheriff’s Office said Thursday that the troops ranged in rank from private to major, and were each released on bonds ranging from $1,500 to $2,500. They were a part of a group of 20 people arrested after agreeing to pay for sex.
Cruz explained that deputies from the Special Crimes Unit used websites known for being used to advertise sex work.
Communicating with suspects mostly through text messages, potential customers would discuss the sexual activity they were interested in and the amount of time they sought, agreeing to prices that ranged from $60 to $200, Special Crimes Unit Director Lt. Michele Cianci told the Kileen Daily Herald.
Suspects were immediately taken into custody after being greeted by a female officer posing as a sex worker.
"The purpose of the operation is to crack down on sex trafficking and to identify and arrest individuals seeking sexual acts in exchange for an agreed upon fee in Bell County," Cruz said, according to Stars and Stripes. "Our goal is to focus our efforts on sex buyers who are seeking to take advantage of sex trafficking victims. We are putting these predators on notice that our Bell County community will not tolerate their behavior."
Fort Hood Public Affairs Director Tom Rheinlander told KWTX that the base is cooperating fully with authorities, and that "Allegations such as these are taken seriously as they run counter to Army values."
The soldiers could receive jail time or a fine for misdemeanor solicitation charges, and their military careers could be impacted as pandering and prostitution violates the Uniform Code of Military Justice. A maximum penalty for service members found guilty at court martial is a year of confinement and a dishonorable discharge.
"We’re certainly putting everyone on notice that this kind of activity will not be tolerated here in Bell County, Texas," Bell County Sheriff Eddy Lange said Tuesday. "We want everyone to know that you don't know who you are talking to on the other end of that computer or the other end of your phone while texting and it could very well be the police."