When officials say Brian Robinson walked his cousin, Aaron Crane, to a local motel door late last month after making arrangements with an undercover detective posing as a prostitute, both Waco residents became two of the 71 men arrested in the McLennan County Sheriff’s Office’s largest undercover online prostitution sting so far.

“The interesting thing I’ve found throughout all of our stings is you never know who you’re going to come into contact with when we open the door,” Detective Joseph Scaramucci said. “We routinely come across armed suspects, but I am very proud to be a part of an organization that is taking this seriously.”

Robinson, 33, and Crane, 31, were arrested during the 14th National John Suppression Initiative. Robinson, who fled from officers and was subdued with a stun gun, was arrested on charges of evading and possession of a .38-caliber handgun. Crane was arrested on a Class B misdemeanor charge of prostitution.

The effort marks McLennan County’s sixth undercover prostitution operation in the past three years. The department finished this National John Suppression Initiative with the fifth most arrests among the 37 agencies that participated. Nationwide, 1,020 sex buyers were arrested.

“We are trying to eliminate the demand with these stings,” McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara said. “It is kind of like the drug business, because as long as you have people on drugs, wanting it and paying for it, we are going to have drug dealers. We are trying to diminish this demand, but whether or not we will stop it, that may be impossible. If we can diminish the demand, it will cut down on human tracking.”

The operation

Detectives worked from June 28 to July 31 by placing online advertisements to target sex trafficking. Several sheriff’s office divisions cooperated to investigate, arrest and transport suspects to jail, McNamara said.

“We get people from Dallas, Fort Worth, Cranfills Gap, Houston, we get people just stopping through town and we had one man come in from Tennessee,” he said. “We get them from all over, but the effort our detectives are putting forth to catch these people is outstanding.”

Scaramucci, who spearheaded the local operation, said men arrested ranged in age from 18 to 63 and came from varied backgrounds. Detective Rebecca Eubank joined the human trafficking unit this year as its first female officer.

“I was the violence-against-women detective in Bellmead, so part of this still falls along the same line, but this goes hand-in-hand with sexual assaults,” Eubank said. “From a woman’s point, or from anyone’s point of view, this is definitely sad that this is still going on.”

National statistics

According to the Cook County, Illinois, Sheriff’s Office, the Phoenix Police Department made the most arrests in the national effort, with 454. The Harris County Sheriff’s Office followed with 170 arrests. The Cook County, Illinois, Sheriff’s Office made 137 arrests, and the Houston Police Department made 88 arrests. McLennan County had the fifth most, with 71 arrests.

The national initiative netted 15 sex-trafficking arrests and resulted in 75 adult victims and six juvenile victims being recovered. Agencies also issued more than $1.5 million in fines.

More than 7,630 sex buyers have been arrested in the national suppression initiative since it started in 2011.

Notable local arrests

Matthew Glasson, 40, of Lorena, was arrested in late June when officials say he arrived at a local motel to meet an undercover detective posing as a prostitute. Officers arrested Glasson, who they said also had a fake ID badge of an FBI agent and a firearm, on charges of false identification of a peace officer and prostitution.

Marcus Stafford, 34, of Hallsburg, was arrested July 11 on charges of prostitution and aggravated assault on a peace officer. McNamara said Stafford put his car in reverse and accelerated around a motel at a high rate of speed and rammed into two deputies’ vehicles multiple times.

Deputies were able to take Stafford into custody, and no injures were reported. McNamara said the collisions caused serious damage to both vehicles.

Kristin Hoppa has been covering public safety and breaking news for the Tribune-Herald since January 2016. She worked in Northwest Missouri covering crime-related issues before her move to Central Texas. She is a University of Kansas graduate.

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