THREE US Navy personnel deployed to Bahrain are facing criminal charges over an alleged sex trafficking and corruption scandal.
The sailors, including a lieutenant commander and a chief petty officer, are being investigated for housing prostitutes in an apartment in Juffair, offering them to customers and making a profit.
They are facing a series of charges and court-martial proceedings in the Middle East and in the US, while one of them is also charged with solicitation and rape allegedly committed in Juffair last year, according to a report published by The Navy Times.
A spokesman for the US Fifth Fleet confirmed to the GDN yesterday that charges have been filed against the three men who worked for the US Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) in Bahrain.
“We can confirm that charges have been filed against three sailors previously assigned to the Naval Forces Central Command or subordinate commands based in Bahrain for suspected violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice to which all service members are held accountable,” said US Fifth Fleet public affairs officer Commander Joshua Frey.
“As the cases are currently in various stages of the pre-trial process, it would be inappropriate to comment on the specifics of any individual case.”
A fourth man has also been charged with seeking to obstruct an investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS).
The Navy Times has named all four sailors as chief operations specialist Jayson Waitman Grant, gunner’s mate second class Jihad Hobeson Littlejohn, chief logistics specialist Calvin Halfacre and chief logistics specialist Earl Anthony McLaughlin, who have all maintained their innocence.
“Military prosecutors accuse chief operations specialist Jayson Waitman Grant of participating in a late 2017 venture centred in the Juffair neighbourhood of Manama, the capital of Bahrain, which recruited, transported and obtained prostitutes by means of fraud or coercion,” reported the US daily newspaper quoting official charge-sheets.
It added that when questioned by an NCIS agent in Bahrain on October 5 last year, Mr Grant, who is a highly decorated officer, allegedly lied to have never conversed with anyone “regarding housing prostitutes and making money off their sexual acts”.
Mr Grant was assigned to the Naval Surface Squadron 5 in Bahrain before he was moved to the Transient Personnel Unit in Norfolk, US earlier this year.
While Mr Littlejohn served aboard the patrol ship Hurricane (operating under the Fifth Fleet) until March 9 before being assigned to the same Norfolk unit.
“Beginning in June 2017 in Manama, (Mr Littlejohn) allegedly paid BD1,000 to obtain persons who would perform commercial sex acts, confiscated the passport of an unnamed person, conspired with an NCIS source to recruit and harbour sex workers, engaged in sexual acts with a person not his spouse for money, and sold booze bought at the Navy Exchange in Bahrain to a third party,” reported the newspaper.
The report also stated that Mr Halfacre, who was in Bahrain from 2016 until early this year, is facing both solicitation and rape charges, and similar to the other sailors he was also moved to the unit in Norfolk.
“He is accused of three rapes allegedly committed in Juffair on June 17, June 24 and September 12, 2017,” according to the report, which said it remained unclear whether there was one or more alleged victims.
Mr Halfacre also faces charges for allegedly procuring prostitution services in Bahrain twice in July last year and on another occasion two months later.
Also, he allegedly conspired with two unidentified sailors in September to impede a federal criminal investigation by revealing the contact information of an NCIS source.
Meanwhile, Mr McLaughlin has been charged with attempting to impede the investigation into Mr Halfacre.
“McLaughlin was assigned to Naval Forces Central Command in Manama at the time of his arrest, according to his military records,” stated the US daily.
Mr McLaughlin also served with Virginia-based Marine Helicopter Squadron One in 2014, popularly known as “Marine One”. The squadron’s helicopters transport the US president, vice-president and senior Pentagon officials.
The GDN contacted NCIS officials yesterday, who declined to comment further – adding that the information in The Navy Times was obtained from the official charge-sheets.
The scandal has prompted NAVCENT to launch an awareness drive and training sessions to combat trafficking in persons.
“NAVCENT has initiated an awareness campaign, including comprehensive training on Combating Trafficking in Persons (CTIP), Commander’s Calls, and Ethics and Character Development,” said Commander Frey in a statement to the GDN.
“The goal of this campaign is to raise awareness of this issue, reinforce Navy core values, and promote bystander intervention by encouraging sailors to speak up when wrongdoing or destructive behaviours are occurring.
“The campaign also includes ongoing law enforcement and investigative measures to identify and appropriately address any further activity discovered.”
There are more than 8,500 military members and their dependants in Bahrain, and their presence directly contributed to more than $1.2 billion to Bahrain’s economy in 2016.