KINGSPORT, Tenn. – A Sullivan North Middle School coach, a youth leader and others are facing felony charges after the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Kingsport Police Department announced results from a Human Trafficking investigation.
TBI Director Mark Gwyn said 11 men face felony charges in Kingsport. The operation, called “Someone Like Me,” is the 10th of its kind in the State of Tennessee.
Special Agents with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation along with the Kingsport Police Department, 2nd Judicial District Drug Task Force, Sullivan County District Attorney’s Office, and Homeland Security Investigations conducted the undercover operation to identify potential victims of trafficking and arrest those seeking to purchase illicit sex from a juvenile.
“We want to make sure there’s no place that feels safe to those men who would victimize our state’s most vulnerable,” Gwyn said.
The people arrested in the sting include a church youth leader, a local coach, a volunteer firefighter, an EMT, and Uber driver.
“Many still think this is something that just happens in big cities. The results of this operation prove that’s not the case,” Gwyn said.
The operation took place from July 31 to Aug. 3.
TBI Deputy Director Jason Locke said during the first three days of the investigation, undercover agents posed as juvenile girls and posted ads on Backpage.com.
“Of the 11 men who showed up seeking sex with a minor, 3 of them wanted to purchase sex from a 16-year-old,” Locke said. “We will continue to conduct these operations across the state and do whatever it takes to bring those trafficking women and children, as well as those supplying the demand, to justice.”
The fourth day of the operation focused on identifying victims of trafficking with the help of the nonprofit agency Community Coalition Against Human Trafficking.
One woman was also cited and offered services including housing and counseling. She has been placed in transitional housing.
One individual indicted as part of the investigation has not yet been arrested.
A total of 12 people have been charged.