A series of criminal investigations into Bahrain’s sex trade has netted several Navy chief petty officers, according to charge sheets provided to Navy Times.
While officials count six known defendants facing court-martial proceedings in the Middle East and in the United States — including a lieutenant commander — Navy Times has court records tied to four sailors.
Although their alleged crimes and the tawdry details attached to them seem similar, military officials insist that the six cases spun out of separate Naval Criminal Investigative Service probes and are not connected to each other.
“NCIS has opened separate investigations into allegations involving these sailors. The Navy is unable to comment on the details while the investigation is ongoing,” said Cmdr. Joshua Frey, spokesman for U.S. Naval Forces Central Command.
Often shortened to “NAVCENT,” the command controls not only the Navy’s 5th Fleet but several maritime task forces operating in the Red and Arabian seas, the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf.
It was impossible for Navy Times to determine independently whether the ongoing NCIS “Operation High Tide” probes were separate or linked together. Military officials redacted the code names of the cooperating source or sources in the records provided to Navy Times.
All the defendants have maintained their innocence and their attorneys continue to contest the charges.
Military prosecutors accuse Chief Operations Specialist Jayson Waitman Grant of participating in a late 2017 venture centered in the Juffair neighborhood of Manama — the capital of Bahrain — which recruited, transported and obtained prostitutes “by means of fraud or coercion.”
Questioned by an NCIS agent on Oct. 5, Grant allegedly lied when he claimed to have never conversed with anyone “regarding housing prostitutes and making money off their sexual acts,” according to his charge sheet.
He also allegedly allowed an unnamed third party to pay his apartment rent, information he was required to disclose to his commanding officer.
Military records show that Grant was assigned to Naval Surface Squadron 5 in Bahrain before he was moved to the Transient Personnel Unit in Norfolk five months ago.
Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Jihad Hobeson Littlejohn is now assigned to the same Norfolk unit but he served aboard the patrol ship Hurricane until March 9, according to his military records.
Beginning in June 2017 in Manama, he allegedly paid 1,000 Bahraini dinars — about $2,650 — to obtain persons who would perform commercial sex acts; confiscated the passport of an unnamed person; conspired with an NCIS source to recruit and harbor 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.
The Cyclone-class Hurricane is homeported in Manama.
Chief Logistics Specialist Calvin Halfacre of Coastal Riverine Group 2 in Virginia Beach, Virginia, faces both solicitation and rape charges.
He’s accused of three rapes allegedly committed in Juffair on June 17, June 24 and Sept. 12, 2017.
Because of the way Navy officials redacted the passages in Halfacre’s charge sheets, it remains unclear whether investigators suspect there was one or more alleged victims.
In September 2017, Halfacre allegedly conspired with two unidentified sailors to impede a federal criminal investigation by revealing the contact information of an NCIS source.
He also faces charges for allegedly procuring prostitution services in Bahrain twice in July 2017 and on another occasion two months later.
He was assigned to Coastal Riverine Group 2′s Bahrain detachment between late 2016 and early 2018, according to military records.
Now with Norfolk’s Transient Personnel Unit, Chief Logistics Specialist Earl Anthony McLaughlin has been charged with attempting to impede the investigation into Halfacre.
McLaughlin was assigned to NAVCENT in Manama at the time of his arrest, according to his military records.
NAVCENT’s Frey told Navy Times that commanders in Bahrain have initiated an awareness initiative that includes comprehensive ethical and character development training, plus special instruction on combating sex trafficking.
“The goal of this campaign is to raise awareness of this issue, reinforce Navy core values and promote bystander intervention by encouraging (s)ailors to speak up when wrongdoing or destructive behaviors are occurring,” he said in a written statement emailed to Navy Times. “The campaign also includes ongoing law enforcement and investigative measures to identify and appropriately address any further activity discovered.”
The Pentagon takes human trafficking seriously.
In a Jan. 11 statement that was widely circulated, Anthony M. Kurta, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for military personnel policy, compared trafficking sex workers with modern-day slavery.
“It not only destroys the lives of those victimized, but also destroys countless families and poses a direct threat to the security and well-being of the entire world," Kurta said.
One of the Pentagon’s top initiatives is “Memex,” a software system being developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. It promises to help law enforcement, military commanders and intelligence agencies track human trafficking patterns on the internet and bring criminals to justice.
Tampa-based Special Operations Command also has partnered with the National Association to Protect Children and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations to create the Human Exploitation Rescue Operative Child Rescue Corps.
It works to eradicate the sexual exploitation of children.
Chief Engineman Jordan Lee Grinnell is slated to go to trial on Oct. 4.
Navy officials declined to say how these sailors came to the attention of federal law enforcement.
Military attorneys representing Grant, Littlejohn, Halfacre and McLaughlin also did not respond to Navy Times requests seeking comment.
Originally from Ohio, Grant enlisted in the Navy in 2000 and served aboard the frigate Robert G. Bradley and the destroyers Decatur and Howard.
His personal decorations include the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal and seven Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals.
He was advanced to chief petty officer on Aug. 16, 2014.
An Illinois native, Halfacre enlisted in the Navy in 1997 and became a chief on Aug. 16, 2016 while assigned to Fleet Air Forward in Atsugi, Japan.
He previously served aboard the fast combat support ship Seattle and the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln. He arrived in Bahrain on Dec. 1, 2016, according to military records.
Halfacre’s personal decorations include the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal and three Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals.
A New Yorker, McLaughlin enlisted in the Navy in 2001 and became a chief on July 16, 2015.
He served aboard the guided-missile cruiser Chancellorsville and the carrier Lincoln before joining Virginia-based Marine Helicopter Squadron One in 2014.
Popularly known as “Marine One,” the squadron’s helicopters transport the president and vice president of the United States, plus senior Pentagon officials.
McLaughlin was detached from the unit in early 2017 and posted to Bahrain.
McLaughlin’s personal decorations include the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal and two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, according to his military records.
A New Jersey native, Littlejohn enlisted in the Navy in early 2011.
Before joining the crew of the Hurricane he served aboard the amphibious warships Bonhomme Richard and Essex, according to military records.
Navy officials acknowledged that Littlejohn’s personnel file might not be updated but he’s listed as having received six awards and decorations, including the Navy "E" Ribbon.