Army Recruiter Accused of Soliciting Girls As Young As 10 for Sex: 'It's Disturbing'

An active-duty U.S. Army recruiter was arrested and taken into custody on Monday after allegedly trying to abuse girls as young as 10 over the internet, police say.

Ken Hardcastle, 31, who was stationed at Fort Collins in Colorado, was detained after investigators claimed he used social media to solicit sexual encounters with children. The suspect called himself "Colorado Batman" on one dating site, according to the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office.

The police department released two images taken from Hardcastle's online profiles yesterday, appealing for anyone with information about additional victims to contact the office.

It wrote: "Sexy? Think again. Investigators just arrested Ken Hardcastle, 31, for soliciting girls as young as 10 for sex with these photos on social media. 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."

On one dating profile, which contained images of Hardcastle hiking and drinking, a bio reads: "Looking for a good sb." According to the same dating site, "sb" stands for "sugar baby."

The suspect has been charged with internet sex exploitation of a child and internet luring of a child. He appeared in court yesterday, held on $10,000 bond, 9news reported.

An arrest affidavit obtained by 9news said evidence was collected after police were approached by a person who had spoken to Hardcastle via a dating website and Snapchat.

In their chats, Hardcastle allegedly said he wanted to have sexual contact with a 10-year-old. An undercover operation was launched, using a photo of a female deputy posing as a 14-year-old, which spurred the suspect to ask for nude images. He allegedly masturbated via video chat.

The news outlet reported a 16-year-old girl informed investigators Hardcastle had previously attempted to persuade her to sent naked images of her and her friends.

Nick Rodriguez, of a dedicated internet crimes unit, told 9news: "In this specific case, him going after a 10-year-old, yes that's surprising. Usually these guys are going after 14-, 16 year-olds. But to take it to the extreme of someone so young and innocent like that, it's disturbing."

He has urged parents to be vigilant, saying: "Kids have a lot of ways to communicate with adults. They talk to adults all the time. Unless you're listening, a predator could be going after them."

The Army Recruiting Command for Denver did not immediately respond to request for comment from Newsweek. Its territory includes Colorado, Nebraska and southeast Wyoming.

A statement from the command was obtained by CBS4 Denver, confirming that Hardcastle had worked in Fort Collins since 2015 but had been suspected on an unrelated matter last year.

"Denver Army Recruiting Battalion takes all allegations of misconduct seriously and does not tolerate inappropriate behavior by any personnel in this command," its spokesperson said. "As the Army's ambassadors to communities across Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska, it is an expectation for every one of our recruiters to embody the Army's core values in everything they do."

Ken Hardcastle
Ken Hardcastle, 31, of Fort Collins in Colorado, was detained after investigators alleged he used social media to solicit sexual encounters with children. Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office