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.
Check out video below:
Source: daily Kos