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A Department of Defense Education Activity administrator was arrested in Georgia on Nov. 15, 2023, on suspicion of soliciting a prostitute during a human trafficking sting.

A Department of Defense Education Activity administrator was arrested in Georgia on Nov. 15, 2023, on suspicion of soliciting a prostitute during a human trafficking sting. (Pixabay)

The chief of staff for Defense Department schools in the United States was arrested last week on suspicion of soliciting a prostitute during a human trafficking sting, according to media reports.

Stephen Hovanic, 64, of Sharpsburg, Ga., was nabbed on a pandering charge during a two-day operation last week by Coweta County Sheriff’s Office, WSB-TV in Atlanta reported Tuesday. Coweta is approximately 25 miles southwest of Atlanta.

Hovanic has worked for Department of Defense Education Activity for nearly three decades, the past 13 years as chief of staff for the Americas region, according to the activity’s website. DODEA administers schools on U.S. military bases worldwide.

The sting was initiated Nov. 15 by members of the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office, which requested assistance from Haralson County’s Special Operations Division, according to a social media post by the Haralson County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday.

No details on where or how the sting was conducted were released, but 26 individuals were arrested, 12 for prostitution, 10 for pandering and four for pimping, according to the post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Six trafficked victims were rescued and moved to safety, the post said. Three of the arrested individuals are under investigation for human trafficking and drug charges.

Pandering is the legal term for paying or attempting to pay for sex. It — along with pimping — is a misdemeanor under Georgia law.

Hovanic was arrested on the sting’s first day, The Daily Caller reported Tuesday. He told jail staff he works for the Defense Department in Peachtree City, home of DODEA-Americas headquarters, Coweta County Sheriff’s Office administrator Eva Tedder told the site.

A DODEA spokesman could not be reached for comment after hours on Wednesday.

Hovanic, an honorably discharged veteran who attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, began his academic career in 1982 as a high school vocational teacher, coach and school administrator for Virginia public schools, according to his DODEA biography. He joined DODEA in 1996 as an assistant principal at Quantico Middle-High School and later served as principle of Dahlgren Unit School.

In 2008, Hovanic moved to Peachtree City as an instructional systems specialist and was named chief of staff two years later, according his biography.

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Matthew M. Burke has been reporting from Okinawa for Stars and Stripes since 2014. The Massachusetts native and UMass Amherst alumnus previously covered Sasebo Naval Base and Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, for the newspaper. His work has also appeared in the Boston Globe, Cape Cod Times and other publications.

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