FAYETTEVILLE -- A local man received a 40-year prison sentence Tuesday in Washington County Circuit Court for sex trafficking of minors.
Lexus DeShawn Hobbs, 23, was arrested in February in connection with an online prostitution operation involving teen girls that ranged from Washington County to Springfield, Mo. Hobbs was arrested in Springfield and returned to Washington County where he was charged with three counts of trafficking of minor persons.
The first count was for activity May 15, 2020 and involved a 16-year-old girl. Hobbs "did knowingly recruit, entice, solicit, isolate, harbor, transport, provide, maintain or obtain a minor for commercial sexual activity" for money, which the girl was expected to turn over to Hobbs, according to court documents.
The second count stemmed from activity Aug. 4, 2020 involving a 17-year-old girl, and the third count from activity Oct. 15, 2020. involving another 17-year-old girl, according to court documents.
Circuit Judge Mark Lindsay sentenced Hobbs to 40 years at the Arkansas Department of Correction with 20 years suspended on each count. The sentences will run concurrently. Hobbs was ordered to register as a sex offender.
Denis Dean, a deputy prosecutor with Washington County, said such crimes often involve violence. Several similar cases are pending, he said.
"It not something we see every day, but we're seeing more and more of it," he said. "We're going to address each case and try to stamp it out. It's definitely a priority."
Dean said the investigation began when one of the teens contacted the FBI. The investigation involved law enforcement agencies in Washington and Benton counties and Springfield, including the Fayetteville Police Department, Washington County Sheriff's Office and the FBI, he said.
The FBI recovered some evidence from a search of a Fayetteville home that led to Hobbs being found and arrested in Missouri, Dean said.
Hobbs did business online and moved the teens from place to place between Northwest Arkansas and Missouri, he said. Not all of the girls were involved at the same time, although there was some overlap in the cases, he said.
While free on bond and awaiting trial in Washington County, Hobbs was arrested again in Springfield by the FBI after they found him trafficking an 18-year-old for sex, according to court documents. Prosecutors said the victim in that case told them she was homeless and that when she wanted to stop prostituting herself, Hobbs choked her.