COOKEVILLE, Tenn. - Agents with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation arrested and indicted ten men allegedly involved in a a human trafficking ring in Putnam County.
The undercover operation involved the TBI, Office of the 13th District Attorney General, Cookeville Police Department, Putnam County Sheriff’s Office, and Homeland Security Investigators.
It began in Cookeville on February 15 and continued through February 17. Investigators focused on "individuals seeking to engage in commercial sex acts with females under the age of 18, and those engaged in trafficking others for commercial sex acts."
For all three days of the operation, advertisements were placed in the “Women Seeking Men” section of backpage.com, and two female TBI Agents posted as individuals offering sex on that site. Agents identified themselves as being 14 to 17 years old in phone or text conversations.
A total of ten men, from college students, to a mail carrier, to a landscaping company owner, traveled to the location to meet for the purpose of illicit sex from a female they believed to be a minor.
“With each similar operation we conduct, we want to send the same message; that we will not tolerate the sexual exploitation of any person in our community,” says TBI Acting Director Jason Locke. “This is a demand-driven crime, involving men from all kinds of backgrounds. As a state, Tennessee has led the fight to see to it that no child or adult falls victim to these sexual predators.”
Click here to read the full TBI press release. The suspects' names and charges are listed below:
- Kenneth Hobbs (DOB 09/29/1966, Dunlap): One count Patronizing Prostitution (Class B Felony)
- Lance Hatmaker (DOB 12/06/1987, Carthage): One count Patronizing Prostitution (Class A Felony)
- Matthew Kenty (DOB 06/24/1999, Birmingham, AL): One count Patronizing Prostitution (Class B Felony)
- Nicanor Baraiac (DOB 02/15/1976, Lenoir City): One count Patronizing Prostitution (Class A Felony)
- Nathaniel Stalnaker (DOB 05/04/1999, Cookeville): One count Patronizing Prostitution (Class A Felony)
- Justin Adcock (DOB 02/13/1990, Algood): One count Patronizing Prostitution (Class A Felony)
- Daniel Baltazar (DOB 07/16/1983, Cookeville): One count Patronizing Prositution (Class B Felony)
- Marcus Clark (DOB 07/27/1999, Monroe): One count Patronizing Prostitution (Class A Felony)
School officials in Putnam County confirmed Stalnaker, a senior at Cookeville High School, had been set to graduate soon. Those with the school system told NewsChannel 5, "[Stalnaker] will not be representing Cookeville High School or Putnam County and will not be competing in the 2018 TSSAA State Track Meet."
Officials with Tennessee Tech released the following statement on Kenty, who's reportedly a student there:
"He is currently listed as an active student. Tennessee Tech’s student disciplinary policy can be applied to some off-campus conduct if the criteria listed in the policy are met. Tennessee Tech cannot, however, comment on the application of the student disciplinary policy to a specific student."