COWETA COUNTY, Ga. – A man who worked as a senior Pentagon official was among 26 people arrested in a Georgia human-sex-trafficking sting, according to law enforcement authorities.
Stephen Hovanic, 64, former chief of staff for the Americas division of the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) was one of 26 individuals taken into custody in connection with crimes that facilitate human-sex-trafficking.
Last week, the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office announced the arrests of 26 people, including Hovanic. He is charged with pandering – a misdemeanor in Georgia – after he reportedly solicited sex in a motel room with an undercover agent, according to FOX 5 Atlanta.
In Hovanic’s role with DoDEA, he oversaw federally operated school systems in the Americas. He has apparently held the position since 2010, according to his LinkedIn profile, FOX News reported.
“This kind of operation is really important to us, because, number one, sex buyers are a huge problem in the industry. Without sex buyers, there wouldn’t be a market for the females to continue to be victimized,” an agent told FOX 5 on the condition of anonymity. “Second, and probably most importantly for all of us, is the victimization of these females. There’s not a good scenario for them in this lifestyle, so the goal is to get them out of this lifestyle.”
The two-day sting occurred Nov. 15 and 16, resulting in the rescue of six human trafficking victims, who have since been “moved to safety,” the Haralson County Sheriff’s Office in Georgia, which assisted with the CCSO investigation, said in a Thursday post on social media.
The Coweta County Sheriff’s Office conducted a Human Trafficking Operation on November 15 and 16, 2023, and requested the HCSO Special Ops Div to assist. During the two days, six victims of Human Trafficking were rescued and moved to safety.
— Haralson Co Sheriff GA (@HaralsonSheriff) November 20, 2023
“A total of 26 arrests were made, 12 for prostitution, 10 for pandering, and four for pimping. Three of the individuals are currently under investigation for human trafficking and drug charges,” HCSO said.
In a statement to Channel 2 Action News, the DoDEA said it is “aware of an alleged incident involving a DoDEA employee in the Americas Region.”
“As there are ongoing legal processes, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time. Any questions regarding the incident should be directed to the local law enforcement agency involved,” the federal organization said.
The school system listed Hovanic’s former position as chief of staff for the Americas as “vacant” on its website, FOX News reported.
The DoDEA is described as “one of only two Federally-operated school systems” that is “responsible for planning, directing, coordinating, and managing prekindergarten through 12th grade educational programs on behalf of the Department of Defense (DoD),” according to its website.
The federal agency operates 160 schools spread across 11 countries, seven states, Guam and Puerto Rico. The school system serves nearly 70,000 children of military and DoD families and employs approximately 15,000 people.
“DoDEA is committed to ensuring that all school-aged children of military families are provided a world-class education that prepares them for postsecondary education and/or career success and to be leading contributors in their communities as well as in our 21st century globalized society,” the website notes.