Note: This story was updated at 5:03 p.m.
An Oak Ridge man was arrested and booked into Knox County jail on a trafficking charge on Saturday, one day after Tennessee and Knoxville officials announced that 32 men and women had been arrested in an operation to combat human trafficking.
Bond for Zubin Percy Parakh, 32, of Golfcrest Lane in Oak Ridge, has been set at $100,000 on the trafficking charge. A preliminary hearing has been set for May 31, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Knox County Sheriff’s Office website.
The arrests and citations on prostitution and human trafficking-related charges were made as part of Operation Someone Like Me last week in Knoxville.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said two of the men, including a children’s minister, Jason Kennedy, 46, of Knoxville, responded to ads for what they thought were girls under the age of 18. Kennedy was a children’s minister at Grace Baptist Church on Oak Ridge Highway in Karns, but he has since been fired.
Kennedy and Parakh were the only two charged with trafficking, a Class A felony, the most serious in Tennessee, with the exception of capital murder charges. Both men were also charged with patronizing prostitution.
Bond for Kennedy has been set at $50,000. Like Parakh, he has a court date set for May 31, according to the TBI.
Kennedy and Parakh were both still listed as inmates at the Knox County Detention Facility on Monday afternoon.
Parakh had been identified as a volunteer and creative pastor at Lifehouse Church on Oak Ridge Turnpike in Oak Ridge, although there is currently no mention of him on the church’s website. The church told WBIR-TV in Knoxville that Parakh has never worked with children.
Oak Ridge Today has not been able to reach Lifehouse Church for comment, but the church has posted a statement on Facebook.
“We are saddened today as a result of information relating Zubin Parakh, who was a volunteer worker at our church,” the statement said. “Our church and its leaders were not aware of any alleged misconduct regarding Mr. Parakh. However, we are praying for all parties involved. We both ask for and hope our church family’s privacy will be respected throughout this process.”
WVLT-TV reported that Parakh responded to ads specifically indicating he was looking for underage girls to have sex with, according to TBI Director Mark Gwyn.
According to police records, the television station said, Parakh responded to a Backpage.com ad to engage in sexual activity with an undercover agent who he believed was 17 years old. Records show the entire incident happened within 1,000 feet of Gospels Voice Russian Church, WVLT said.
Last week’s three-day operation was conducted by special agents with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and detectives with the Knoxville Police Department.
See more information in this earlier story.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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