The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) has announced the arrest of 32 persons in Knoxville following a three-day sting operation. TBI partnered with the Knoxville Police Department, Community Coalition Against Human Trafficking, End Slavery Tennessee, and Second Life Chattanooga, as TBI agents and intelligence analysts went undercover to identify potential victims of human trafficking. As a result of the operation, arrests were made while agents learned more about the flesh business.
 
Two men – both of whom were are church pastors – were arrested after responding to ads soliciting money for sex with minors. Agents posed as victims in order to trap Pastor Jason Kennedy of Grace Baptist Church, and Pastor Zubin Parakh of Lifehouse Church of Oak Ridge, near Knoxville. Kennedy, according to TBI, agreed to pay $100 for 30 minutes of sex with a girl and a woman. Parakh was charged with responding to an ad for sex with a female minor. Three hundred contacts were made in response to ads posted on Background.com, a website that has since become defunct.
 
TBI Director Mark Gwyn said of the sex busts, “We want anyone responding to these ads to think there may be a TBI Agent on the other end of it.” The “Operation Someone Like Me,” is the fifth of its kind in Tennessee that has seen cooperation between TBI and other law enforcement agencies to identify, investigate and prosecute trafficking, and rescue victims. TBI Assistant Special Agent Margie Quin said, “We’re changing the conversation about human trafficking. These operations are designed to identify and help victims of trafficking, as well as take these predators off the street.”
 
Launched in 2015, the ItHasToStop program has sought to identify victims of sex/human trafficking and offer services that include housing, counseling and addiction treatment. Currently, there are approximately 1.5 million victims of slavery and human trafficking in the U.S.
 
Here follows a list of those arrested in the sting:
 
Michael Clayton, 43, Clinton, TN – Patronizing Prostitution
Larry Quarles, 52, New Market, TN – Patronizing Prostitution
Gerrado Merchant, 36, Jacksboro, TN – Patronizing Prostitution
James Perkins, 50, Sweetwater, TN- Patronizing Prostitution
Greg Hensley, 44, Mascot, TN – Patronizing Prostitution
Jaton Johnson, 38, Knoxville, TN – Patronizing Prostitution, Simple Possession
Samuel Rivers, 27, East Point, GA – Patronizing Prostitution, Unlawful Possession of a Weapon, Simple Possession
Prashante Bhakta, 35, Columbus, NC – Patronizing Prostitution
James Warren, 32, Newport, TN – Patronizing Prostitution
Dariusz Jurczak, 45, Knoxville, TN – Patronizing Prostitution
Gary Bauer, 56, Heiskell, TN – Patronizing Prostitution
Nicholas Rains, 24, Maryville, TN – Patronizing Prostitution
Ignacio Jimenez, 38, Maryville, TN – Patronizing Prostitution
Patrick Douthat, 27, Knoxville, TN – Patronizing Prostitution
Brandon Slatton, 22, Knoxville, TN – Patronizing Prostitution
Jeffrey Sweeney, 63, Knoxville, TN – Patronizing Prostitution
Robert Aiken, 48, Jacksboro, TN – Patronizing Prostitution
Atari McNabb, 28, Knoxville, TN – Patronizing Prostitution
Zubin Parakh, 32, Oak Ridge, TN – Patronizing Prostitution, Trafficking
Jonathan McCarthy, 30, Augusta, GA – Patronizing Prostitution
Jose Juarez, 38, Knoxville, TN – Patronizing Prostitution
Robert Lambert, 40, Knoxville, TN – Patronizing Prostitution
Cornelius Turner, 26, Memphis, TN – Promoting Prostitution, served with warrant out of Shelby County
Jerry Rhode, 41, Strawberry Plains, TN – Patronizing Prostitution
Zachary Desha, 24, Knoxville, TN – Promoting Prostitution
Jason Kennedy, 46, Knoxville, TN – Patronizing Prostitution, Trafficking
Kelsey Martin, 23, Boaz, KY – Prostitution
Alexis Phelps, 21, Knoxville, TN – Prostitution
Shirley Henry, 23, Clinton, TN – Prostitution
Stephanie Thomas, 26, Knoxville, TN – Prostitution
Crystal Myers, 37, Knoxville, TN – Prostitution

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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