TBI: 32 arrested in Tennessee human trafficking investigation

Photo Credit: WATE

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – After a three-day investigation, agents with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and detectives with the Knoxville Police Department arrested 32 men and women on prostitution and human trafficking-related charges.

TBI said two of the men arrested, including Grace Baptist children’s minister Jason Kennedy, responded to ads for what they thought were girls under the age of 18. Investigators say those arrested come from every sector. “All of these people are somebody’s neighbor,” said TBI Director Mark Gwyn.

During the three-day investigation, undercover agents posted ads on Backpage.com.

“Finding these people who are trying to buy Tennessee children is a priority for us,” said Gwyn. “We want anyone responding to those ads to think there may be a TBI Agent on the other end of it. We will do whatever we can to make a difference in reducing the human trafficking that takes place in Tennessee.”

According to the Community Coalition Against Human Trafficking Kate Trudell, more than 90 minors are listed for human trafficking online in Tennessee each month. “Human trafficking is a demand driven crime,” said Trudell.

During the investigation, more than 300 contacts were made to ads placed on the website, according to TBI. They said one of their agents posed as a juvenile girl and the ad received more than two dozen contacts.

“Human trafficking is a scourge on society,” said Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch. “We will continue to commit all the necessary resources and work alongside our law enforcement partners to help protect our most precious resource our children.”

Those arrested face charges for patronizing prostitution, prostitution and more. The suspects include:

  1. Michael Clayton, 43, of  Clinton
  2. Larry Quarles, 52, of New Market
  3. Gerrado Merchant, 36, of Jacksboro
  4. James Perkins, 50, of Sweetwater
  5. Greg Hensley, 44, of Mascot for
  6. Luis Portillo, 19, of Marryville
  7. Jaton Johnson, 38, of Knoxville
  8. Samuel Rivers, 27, of East Point, Georgia
  9. Prashante Bhatka, 35, of Columbus, North Carolina
  10. James Warren, 32, of Newport
  11. Dariuz Jurczak, 45, of Knoxville
  12. Gary Bauer, 56, of Heiskell
  13. Nicholas Rains, 24, of Maryville
  14. Ignacio Jimenez, 38, of Maryville
  15. Patrick Douthat, 27, of Knoxville
  16. Brandon Slatton, 22, of Knoxville
  17. Jeffrey Sweeney, 63, of Knoxville
  18. Robert Aiken, 48, of Jacksboro
  19. Atari McNabb, 28, of Knoxville
  20. Zubin Parakh, 32, of Oak Ridge
  21. Jonathan McCarthy, 30, of Augusta, Georgia
  22. Jose Juarez, 38, of Knoxville
  23. Robert Lambert, 40, of Knoxville
  24. Cornelius Turner, 25, of Memphis
  25. Jerry Rhode, 63, of Kodak
  26. Zachary Desha, 24, of Knoxville
  27. Jason Kennedy, 46, of Knoxville
  28. Kelsey Martin, 23, Boaz
  29. Alexis Phelps, 21 of Knoxville
  30. Shirley Henry, 23, of Clinton
  31. Stephanie Thomas, 23, of Knoxville
  32. Crystal Myers, 37, of Knoxville

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