US Army recruiter arrested in sexual exploitation of minor case

Kenneth Hardcastle, 31, was arrested Monday, officials said.

(CNN)A U.S. Army recruiter living in the Denver area was arrested on suspicion of felony internet exploitation of a child and felony internet luring, authorities said Tuesday.

Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth Lee Hardcastle was taken into custody Monday at his home in Colorado.
An Arapahoe County Sheriff's Department tweet accused him of soliciting girls for sex.
"He's an active duty U.S. Army Recruiter. We worry there may be other victims. If he's chatted with your daughter, call 720-874-8477," the sheriff's department's tweet said.
    Hardcastle, 31, told a teenager he met on a dating website that he wanted oral sex from a 10-year-old, according to an affidavit filed by the sheriff's department.
    CNN affiliate KMGH reported that the sheriff's office said the person Hardcastle was in contact with was a 16-year-old girl, and investigators believe he tried to get naked pictures of her and her friends, some of whom were about 10 years old.
    According to the Denver-based station, authorities learned that Hardcastle went by the nickname "Colorado batman" on an adult dating site and had posted his pictures on several social media sites.
    CNN has reached out to the sheriff's office for comment on the report.

    Undercover deputy posed as 14-year-old

    Investigators posing as girls then contacted Hardcastle, according to the affidavit.
    They sent him the phone number of one undercover officer and a photo of another deputy, whom he was told was a 14-year-old girl, the affidavit says.
    The sheriff's department says in the document that Hardcastle texted the person he thought was a 14-year-old girl and asked for topless photos. Later he asked about her past sexual relationships, and then while on Skype he performed a lewd act, the affidavit said.
    Hardcastle has been uncooperative with authorities, Sgt. Nick Rodriguez of the sheriff's department's Internet Crimes Against Children and Special Victim's Unit said.

    Hardcastle changed jobs last year

    An Army spokeswoman said Hardcastle was a recruiter in the Denver area from November 2015 to August 2018. He was taken off recruiting because of "unrelated administrative actions," she said. "He has not been in contact with any potential recruits on behalf of the US Army since that time."
    He is still assigned to the Denver Recruiting Battalion, said Kelli Bland, spokeswoman for the command.
    "US Army Recruiting Command takes any claims of inappropriate behavior very seriously and thoroughly reviews all allegations of misconduct," she said. "Recruiters are the face of the Army, and we expect them to serve honorably while representing the force."
      Hardcastle made an initial court appearance Tuesday, where bail was set at $10,000. Hardcastle is due in court Friday at 8:30 a.m. MT (10:30 a.m. ET) when formal charges will be filed.
      It is unclear whether Hardcastle has an attorney. No attorney is listed in his court records, said Shaun Clark, a court executive in Arapahoe County.