Thirteen charged during investigation of human trafficking, related crimes

Dave Clark

Dave Clark

Thirteen people were charged this week during an investigation into human trafficking, sexual exploitation of minors, and prostitution in Anderson County, authorities said. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, or FBI, asked Anderson County’s Seventh Judicial Crime Task Force to work with it to detect and investigate any instances of human trafficking or related crimes that might be occurring in the Anderson County area, according to a Friday press release from District Attorney General Dave Clark. Federal and state law enforcement agencies completed the investigation this week. They were helped by the Anderson County Sheriff’s Department, Clinton Police Department, and Oliver Springs Police Department, which all provided “important and considerable manpower and assistance,” the press release said. The District Attorney General’s Office participated in planning, monitoring, and supporting the operation, the release said. “Deputies, agents, and officers worked together to set up in an area hotel posing as an illicit sexual services customer,” the release said. “This operation included approximately 24 law enforcement officers from the participating agencies. The operation was carefully monitored and video recorded, and undercover deputies, agents, and officers were positioned outside and inside the hotel. The intended targets were any individuals exploiting women, particularly vulnerable women, and profiting from their participation in the sex trade.” [Read more…]

Oak Ridge man arrested, bond set at $100,000 in Knox trafficking case

Zubin Percy Parakh

Zubin Percy Parakh

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. [Read more…]

Children’s minister, local residents among those arrested, cited in human trafficking operation

Jason Kennedy

Jason Kennedy

Note: This story was last updated at 2:30 p.m. May 23.

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.

TBI identified Knoxville’s Jason Kennedy, 46, as the children’s minister arrested for patronizing prostitution and human trafficking. Kennedy was a minister at Grace Baptist Church in Karns, but he has now been terminated.

The TBI said there is a warrant out on a trafficking charge for Zubin Parakh, 32, of Oak Ridge. A spokesperson at Lifehouse Church in Oak Ridge said Parakh serves as a volunteer and “creative pastor” there, according to WBIR, a Knoxville television station. The church told the television station that Parakh has never worked with children.

Grace Baptist released a statement to the media after the Friday news of Kennedy’s arrest.

“The children’s pastor of Grace Baptist Church has been terminated as as result of an arrest in a police sting related to prostitution and human trafficking,” the church said. “The actions of the children’s pastor for which he has been arrested were part of his life outside the church, and we have received no questions or concerns related to his conduct within the church or its ministries.

“The children’s pastor was hired two-and-a-half years ago. The church’s background check turned up no issues that indicate any previous problem. In fact, the children’s pastor in his application affirmed that he had no issues in his background of a criminal or other nature.

“We are praying for his family and will continue to provide the services of our ministry to them.”

Oak Ridge Today has not been able to reach LifeHouse Church for comment.

The TBI said the arrested men also include an engineer and a volunteer firefighter.

Kennedy has been charged and booked. Most of the others were charged on a citation, the TBI said. [Read more…]

Memphis detective to speak here on sex trafficking

Barbara Tolbert

Barbara Tolbert

By Carolyn Krause

Human trafficking—forcing people into sex acts or labor against their will—is a growing threat to children, students, and young adults worldwide. It’s present throughout Tennessee and our nation, regardless of economic, social, or racial background.

Teens who run away from abusive homes and those enticed to leave “good” homes by promises of a fun job or an exciting time may become victims of sex trafficking. Other youths are “rented out” as prostitutes or sold into sex slavery by their own parents, especially those addicted to drugs or challenged by economic stress.

Some 300,000 American kids are estimated to be victims, or at risk of becoming victims, of the multibillion-dollar sex trafficking industry. [Read more…]