A former Franklin County constable ran a prostitution ring for years out of his private security company, and kidnapped a teenager while masquerading as a law-enforcement officer, according to two grand jury indictments filed Monday.
Among those enlisted by Thomas Banta as a prostitute was a woman who called him “Boss” and who told investigators she began working for him as an eighth-grade cheerleader and while he was a football coach, providing free sex to him “any time he wanted it,” according to search warrant affidavits obtained by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.
The woman, now an adult, alleged that in addition to Banta, she routinely had sexual encounters with 15 to 20 men per day, twice a week. She ceased prostituting for Banta in December 2015, she said.
Banta, 67, was in the Franklin County jail Wednesday morning, held on five felony charges, including promoting prostitution, kidnapping a minor and impersonating a peace officer. A co-defendant and alleged former co-worker, Hendra “Dre” Chanault Valentine, also was indicted for kidnapping and impersonating a peace officer.
Banta served as one of six Franklin County elected constables from 2011-2014, and also ran his own private security firm, Banta’s Security and Investigation LLC.
Monday’s indictments provide few details of the alleged offenses. But a 15-month investigation, detailed in affidavits for two search warrants executed by the Franklin County sheriff’s office, include statements from approximately 10 alleged victims and witnesses.
At least one other of Banta’s sexual recruits began working for him as a juvenile, said the woman who claimed she began prostituting for him in eighth grade. She told authorities that Banta and his customers enjoyed watching young boys have sex with her and other females, including once with a 15-year-old boy in a rented motel room.
The woman also asserted that while she was still a juvenile, Banta told her to go to the Capital Plaza Hotel in Frankfort and take an elevator to the top floor for a sexual encounter. She said she was paid $500 and later saw on television the male with whom she had sex. The affidavit does not provide details of that person’s identity.
She further claimed that Banta introduced her to crack cocaine and gave her money to buy crack and heroin.
A man answering the telephone at the number listed for Banta’s private security company said Tuesday morning that Banta was not there. He hung up when asked how Banta could be reached.
Valentine, 49, said in a brief telephone interview Tuesday that he is “innocent of the charges” and planned to turn himself in Wednesday. He declined further comment.
The affidavits of Franklin County Chief Deputy Sheriff Ron Wyatt also outline a grim scenario of Banta photographing and recording his and other sexual encounters, some of which allegedly involved him wrapping a belt around the neck of the woman who called him “Boss,” choking her nearly unconscious.
More than a dozen of Banta’s sex-seeking customers are identified by name in the affidavits, and sometimes also by job title: two football coaches, a limousine driver, a Kentucky State University employee and a former worker at the Franklin County jail.
The affidavits also detail a bizarre sequence of events involving the alleged kidnapping. A 17-year-old boy told authorities that Banta and Valentine identified themselves as police detectives while confronting him in a McDonald’s parking lot in March 2015. The teenager said they showed him badges, then bound his hands behind his back, took his cell phone, placed him in their car and took him to the building where Banta ran his private-security company.
The teenager claimed the two men interrogated him for more than two hours, accusing him of burglarizing an apartment next door to one occupied by his grandmother. She told the sheriff’s office that Banta and Valentine came to her apartment, told her they were detectives and said they wanted to conduct a search. She said she consented because she thought they were “the law,” according to the search warrant affidavits.
Law enforcement authorities searched Banta’s Frankfort home in January and seized several computers and cell phones, the affidavits state.
Officials of the Franklin County commonwealth’s attorney’s office believe other females were involved in the prostitution ring and have urged them to contact the office at (502) 564-4741. The office declined to comment further.
Reporter R.G. Dunlop can be reached at email@example.com or (502) 814.6533.