New info revealed in court documents related to arrest of local Naval officer sentenced for sex trafficking

Charles Cranston Jr.
Posted at 10:36 PM, Jul 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-07 12:35:01-04

NORFOLK, Va. - Since November 2021, we've been following the case of Lt. Cmdr. Charles Cranston Jr.

Cranston, a Hampton Roads-based Naval officer, was recently sentenced to serve two years in prison after pleading guilty to sex trafficking earlier this year.

News 3 investigators are revealing more details into the investigation by police into Cranston that led to his arrest.

It all started in November 2021.

Police in Henrico County posted an ad with a caption reading in part, “Looking for a good daddy to show me how to play this game right and to watch my back."

After responding to the ad, Cranston texts the undercover detective who was posing as a prostitute.

Initially, Cranston offers the undercover detective, “Clients and a place to work from.”

The conversation continues over the next 10 days, with Cranston eventually asking, “Are you looking to do like onlyfans content as well?”

A few days go by and Cranston texts, "I have a client available today for you."

The following day, he said he had more than a dozen people who want to book appointments.

Cranston was arrested with the help of Chesapeake Police and NCIS.

Prior to his sentencing held on June 24, Cranston's family and friends mention his decorated Navy career and commitment to family and friends in character letters to a judge.

His decorations included the Joint Service Commendation Medal awarded to Cranston in 2016.

His daughter wrote in part, "For 17 years, my dad has been nothing but loving, caring and my number one supporter."

In another letter, Cranston’s wife also said in part, “Charles has been nothing short of an outstanding father for his children,” and that he, “made a grave mistake that will e challenging to overcome however, I believe he deserves a second chance.”

“I think many of us make mistakes in their lives. Mr. Cranston made a choice,” Henrico County Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Mike Feinmel said.

Feinmel was the initial prosecutor in Cranston’s case.

“It was a little bit of a creative investigation,” Feinmel told News 3. “I hope that Mr. Cranston is a little bit of an outlier with the fact that he was somebody in a position of trust from the United States military.”

Folks with Samaritan House, a Virginia Beach-based group that helps survivors of human trafficking, have told News 3 they believe one factor that makes Hampton Roads a hot spot for human trafficking includes a lot of military in our area.

“This is not an indictment on folks who are in the military,” Courtney Pierce, Anti-Trafficking Outreach and Direct Services Coordinator for Samaritan House told News 3. “The idea around that is because it creates a very transient society here in the Hampton Roads area. We have lots of people coming and going.”

In their work with human trafficking survivors, Samaritan House offers different kinds of programs including trauma yoga, art therapy and equine therapy.

“We’re really wanting to center their narrative and the story, and we want to center their wants and needs in our service provision,” Pierce said.

Meanwhile, both Feinmel and Pierce said it's important you keep tabs on your loved ones' digital footprints.

“I think OnlyFans is just one potential website,” Feinmel said. “Even something as seemingly innocuous as TikTok or Instagram can provide avenues for sex traffickers to be looking for potential customers and potential employees.”

OnlyFans is a website for adults to create different kinds of content and can get paid for it.

News 3 also asked law enforcement officials why it's important to keep track of all sites your children visit, and to talk with them about it.

“There’s a lot of appeal there on behalf of some young women of, ‘OK, this person can make me look like a model,' or, 'I can get so many clicks, and I can get so many followers.’ Sometimes, it makes young people more susceptible to fall prey to sex traffickers because it’s being represented, ‘Hey, I’m going to represent your modeling career,' and then the next thing we know, we find a young lady is in a situation that she didn’t plan for or she didn’t control,” Feinmel said.

Law enforcement officials explain importance of monitoring children's online activity

Also, it’s important to speak up if you see anything suspicious, as well as raise awareness of trafficking to continue helping survivors.

Cranston also got a 10-year period of supervised probation to start when he's released, which is set for November 2023.

Samaritan House experts tells News 3 they also put together community events focused on conversations about having healthy relationships. They also recommend looking into apps or software to help block or review sites for kids.

READ: Hidden in Plain Sight: Survivors share stories to help combat human trafficking in Hampton Roads