“We want anyone responding to these ads to think there may be a TBI Agent on the other end of it.” —Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director Mark Gwyn
According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), 32 people have been arrested in Knoxville, Tennessee for human trafficking during a 3-day undercover operation :
KNOXVILLE – A three-day operation by Special Agents with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and detectives with the Knoxville Police Department to combat human trafficking in Knoxville has resulted in the arrest of 32 men and women on prostitution and human trafficking-related charges. Two of the men, including a children’s minister, responded to ads for what they thought were girls under the age of 18. The Knoxville anti-trafficking operation, called “Operation Someone Like Me”, is the fifth operation of its kind in the state between the TBI and partner agencies to help identify, investigate and prosecute trafficking, and rescue victims.
With the partnership including the Knoxville Police Department, Community Coalition Against Human Trafficking, End Slavery Tennessee, and Second Life Chattanooga, TBI Agents and intelligence analysts embarked on an undercover operation to identify potential victims of trafficking, arrest those seeking to purchase illicit sex from a juvenile, and learn more about the specific nuances of this type of crime.
Human traffickers all around us. If you’re buying or selling, you are part of the $150 billion business — and part of the crime. Two of the men arrested during the sting were church pastors. Jason Kennedy, a pastor for children aged birth through fifth grade at Grace Baptist Church responded to ads soliciting underaged girls. The TBI records say he negotiated a $100 fee for a half hour of sex with two females — one girl being a minor. The other pastor is Zubin Parakh of Lifehouse Church in Oak Ridge, right outside of Knoxville, was also charged for responding to an ad for sex with a female minor. Three hundred contacts were made in response to ads posted on Background.com (a google search shows the site no longer exists).
The Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch calls human trafficking the “scourge on society” and states his department is committed to doing all that’s necessary to protect 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.
A public awareness campaign was launched last year in Tennessee called ItHasToStop. The operation also helps identify victims of sex/human trafficking and offers services that include housing, counseling and addiction treatment.
Here is the WATE.com news video:
Below are the names of the individuals charged in the human trafficking 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
As for the victims of human trafficking, many are right in front of us in hotels, airplanes, nail salons, truck stops, in elder care centers ... they are held captive through coercion, force and threats. There are an estimated 20.9 million victims of human slavery, with 1.5 million in North America. Sex-trafficking is often the most common and most lucrative in the business of selling human beings. TED talk speaker Tony Talbott makes an incredibly disturbing summation about sex trafficking:
"It's all about the money. Human trafficking is insanely profitable. If you really think about it; You can sell a kilo of Heroin once; You can sell a 13-year-old girl 20 times a night, 365 days a year.”
In order to attenuate human trafficking, we need national discourse. Much can be prevented through awareness. There are tell-tale signs all around us. For additional information, visit The National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC), online which operates 24 hours, 7 days a week. You can also call call 1-888-373-788 or text BeFree (233733). If you suspect any kind of human trafficking, you can submit a tip to DHS or visit: ICE.gov.
Sign HERE: Tell U.S. law enforcement to crack down on $150 billion human trafficking epidemic
Flight attendant tells how she learned to recognize human trafficking and what you can do
Human traffickers now branding victims to show slave ownership
10 signs that indicate the person in front of you might be a victim of human trafficking
'You Can Sell A Kilo Once; You Can Sell A 13-Year-Old Girl 20 Times A Night, 365 Days A Year'