Thomas Banta

Thomas Banta (right) appears in court. (The State Journal archive)

A video camera, nude photos of several women and various sex toys are just some of the evidence uncovered during an investigation of 70-year-old Thomas S. Banta.

The former Franklin County constable pleaded guilty to one felony count of promoting prostitution, one misdemeanor count of unlawful imprisonment and three misdemeanor counts of criminal attempt to impersonate a police officer on Oct. 25.

On Friday, Banta will be sentenced in Franklin County Circuit Court.

Banta was originally charged with one count of kidnapping a minor, three counts of impersonating a peace officer and one count of promoting prostitution, all felonies.

Banta, who served as a Franklin County constable from 2011 to 2014, also ran an unlicensed private investigation service at 940 Louisville Road, where he allegedly operated a prostitution ring.

The investigation of Banta began in 2015 when a woman reported him to authorities. The woman, who would now be in her 40s, met Banta when she was in the eighth grade and, as a young teen, began working for Banta as a sex worker, according to court documents.

The woman told authorities she would work for Banta two days a week. On those days, she’d see 15 to 20 men per day. In addition to having sexual encounters with clients, she would also have sex with Banta, or “Boss,” anytime he wanted, she alleged.

In exchange for having sex with him, Banta would sometimes give her $20 for cigarettes, the woman said. Banta also provided her with money to purchase crack cocaine and heroin, court documents say.

If Banta organized a sexual encounter for the woman, he’d pay her $50. If the woman set up a sexual encounter on her own, she’d make $100 to $500 per encounter, according to a police interview that's described in court documents. 

The woman said sometimes Banta arranged for her or the other women who worked for him to have sex with minors or engage in group sex. Sometimes Banta and his other customers liked to watch the women have sex with each other or young boys, according to court documents.

The woman gave investigators the names of at least three other women who worked for Banta. One of the women began working for Banta when she was a teenager.

While investigating the prostitution ring, authorities learned of a kidnapping incident involving co-defendant Hendra “Dre” Valentine and a then-17-year-old male. A witness who worked for Banta’s private investigation and security service recalled seeing Banta and Valentine bring in the juvenile with his hands zip-tied behind his back.

Court documents say the juvenile was a suspect in a theft case that Banta’s private investigation business was looking into. The juvenile and his grandmother were under the impression that Banta and Valentine were police officers. The grandmother also allowed them to search her house. Her grandson was accused of stealing $50,000.

Valentine pleaded guilty to felony criminal facilitation to kidnapping a minor and four misdemeanor counts of facilitation to impersonating a peace officer in 2016.

He has yet to be sentenced.

In October, prosecutors suggested Banta be sentenced to a total of three years in prison and took no position on probation.

He learns his fate during the 10:30 a.m. session of Franklin County Circuit Court on Friday.

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