McLennan County sheriff’s deputies released details Tuesday about an online underage prostitution sting conducted during three weeks that resulted in the arrest of 29 men.
The sting, which was designed to catch suspects seeking underage escorts for sexual acts or people trying to become “pimps” by trafficking underage prostitutes, began Feb. 16, McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara said.
Detectives pretended to be prostitutes, young girls and pimps throughout the investigation.
“We really didn’t realize we were going to get this many people,” McNamara said.
“They meet up with a pimp who supposedly has these young girls for sale. Much to their chagrin, it’s a couple of our SWAT team guys,” he said.
There were 32 total charges filed against the 29 suspects, who ranged in age from early 20s to mid-50s. Officials said they seized $1,900 in cash and 11 vehicles.
Many of the men arrested had prior convictions on prostitution charges or were registered sex offenders. Most were from McLennan County, but some stretched to other states, Detective Joseph Scaramucci said.
Anthony Farrior, 27, a truck driver from Kentucky, was charged with three counts of conspiracy to commit human trafficking after Scaramucci said he planned to take underage prostitutes to Eagle Pass in Maverick County in his 18-wheeler and sell them to other men, then switch them out for others on a trip back to Waco.
Farrior allegedly arranged to sleep with two young girls while at the Pilot Travel Center, or “Flying J,” truck stop, 2409 South New Road, in order to see which he would rather pimp out.
“He was going to sample the goods,” Scaramucci said.
Detective Brad Bond said another man, Justin Buntyn, 34, wanted to engage in sex acts with a minor in a public library.
In the arrest affidavit for Mohammad Nabi, 22, Scaramucci wrote, “Nabi was seeking an escort, who would be provided for deviate sexual intercourse and sexual intercourse.
“I did agree to provide Nabi with a prostitute, and terms of a trafficking arrangement were made for a fee.”
Nabi was released from jail Feb. 18 on a $5,000 bond.
Some of the people arrested in the operation were charged with prostitution under 18. Others were accused of online solicitation or criminal conspiracy in the trafficking of persons.
“These creeps were out there looking for young girls,” McNamara said.
Scaramucci and Bond were communicating with the suspects from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day, often including weekends, and Scaramucci said he often awoke in the morning to missed calls and texts from the men.
“When you’re dealing with young people’s lives, you can’t put a dollar amount on it,” McNamara said of the time the detectives spent on the case. “So whatever it costs is worth it.”
Officials said the suspects were given a range of ages to choose from in the conversations with detectives, and those charged with prostitution under 18 intentionally chose to arrange sex with a minor.
McNamara said they were surprised by the number of men who attempted to meet for sex with young girls. They exceeded their target, which was 20 arrests, he said.
Scaramucci added, “The ideal number (of arrests) is really zero. Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s ever going to happen.”
“These people come from all walks of life,” McNamara said. “No socioeconomic class is immune. It seems to cross all barriers.”
The first suspect arrested was Fort Hood Sgt. Darren Bradley, 48, who was charged with criminal conspiracy Feb. 16.
“I did agree to provide Bradley with a child, and terms of a trafficking arrangement were made for a fee,” Scaramucci wrote in an affidavit seeking an arrest warrant. Bradley was released the following day on a $20,000 bond.
McLennan County Precinct 1 Deputy Constable Steve Canava, a former veteran Waco police officer, was arrested Feb. 27 on a prostitution under 18 charge. Canava, 51, was placed on unpaid administrative leave immediately after his arrest, Constable Walt Strickland has said. Canava posted a $25,000 bond and was released from the jail the following weekend.
Canava allegedly agreed to meet a person he thought to be a 17-year-old girl “for sexual intercourse for $100,” according to an affidavit.
When officials went to arrest Canava, he was in uniform and had to have his weapon taken away.
Scaramucci said in the document he identified Canava using law enforcement databases.
Scaramucci and Bond advertised only women and girls in this operation, compared to the last sting, which was designed to find people looking to engage in sexual acts with minors of both genders.
The previous sting, conducted in November, led to the arrests of 20 suspects, who suggested meet-up locations ranging from their own homes to their places of work to engage in sex acts with minors.
Sheriff’s officials invited representatives from UnBound, an organization that works to combat human trafficking through prevention, professional training and survivor advocacy, to the press conference held Tuesday.
“It’s so exciting for us to see these people arrested because we work with the victims,” Assistant National Director Natalie Garnett said. “When they see things like this, it will make them feel more hopeful.”
McNamara said: “These creeps love to prey on our young people. And we’re going to do everything we can to stop it.
“We are going to let the dust settle and then do it again.”
Those arrested are:
Darren Bradley, conspiracy to commit human trafficking
Mohammad Nabi, conspiracy to commit human trafficking
Bruce Richards, conspiracy to commit human trafficking
Aaron Watkins, conspiracy to commit human trafficking
Yiming Zhang, conspiracy to commit human trafficking
Andrew Barringer, conspiracy to commit human trafficking
Terry Cobb, conspiracy to commit human trafficking
Elijah Muhammad, conspiracy to commit human trafficking
Anthony Farrior, three counts of conspiracy to commit human trafficking
Steve Canava, prostitution under 18
John Sedillio, prostitution under 18
Jon Collins, prostitution under 18
Moises Hernandez, prostitution under 18
Gabriel Salazar, prostitution under 18
Jason Dennis, prostitution under 18
Clyde Copeland, prostitution under 18
Gustavo Hernandez, prostitution under 18
Jose Arias, prostitution
Vernon Loechel, prostitution
Joshua McGowan, prostitution
Benjamin Richardson, prostitution
Samuel Trulock, online solicitation
Forrest McCain, online solicitation
Justin Buntyn, online solicitation
William Tucker, online solicitation
Shad Clay, online solicitation
Scott Coalwell, online solicitation
Edgar Chavarria, online solicitation
Christopher Bloom, resisting arrest or detention