Multi-County Sting Aims to Expose Human Trafficking in East Tennessee
LENOIR CITY, TN—A multi-agency law enforcement operation aimed at detecting human trafficking netted several arrests over the weekend.
The Lenoir City Police Department and the FBI’s Knoxville Field Office, with significant assistance from Homeland Security Investigations, the Blount County Sheriff’s Office, and the Knoxville Police Department’s Special Crimes Unit initiated the operation, as they do periodically, to identify victims of human trafficking who may be in the greater East Tennessee area.
Online undercover agents and deputies contacted phone numbers from advertisements posted on the Internet, which appeared to offer commercial sex acts. One team concentrated on in-call operations, which led back to Knoxville, while the second team conducted outcall operations at a local motel in Lenoir City.
FBI Agents and officers contacted approximately 75 advertisements. Three females showed up at the undercover location in Lenoir City. Three additional individuals were operating from their own motel rooms in Knoxville.
The Lenoir City team made three loacal arrests for solicitation of prostitution. Knoxville Police officers arrested one female and cited two additional people into court on the same charge. Incidental drug charges were also filed in three cases.
The goal of the operation was to identify those being exploited by traffickers and find help for those at risk of becoming victims.
Investigators are still looking into the circumstances surrounding those who posted to determine if other people were involved in forcing them.
FBI victim specialists provided local resources to all of those encountered during the sting. The operation also included assistance from the 4th and 9th Judicial District Attorneys Offices in Knox and Loudon counties and the non-profit Coalition Against Human Trafficking.