The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) is reporting that a three-day operation headed by Special Agents with the TBI and detectives from the Knoxville Police Department have arrested 32 people in connection with human trafficking.
Among those arrested were 46-year-old Jason Kennedy, a children’s pastor for Grace Baptist Church, and 32-year-old Zubin Parakh, who is a “creative pastor” for LifeHouse Church. Both men were charged with trafficking and “patronizing prostitution.”
Kennedy has already been fired by his church. The same seems to be true for Parakh, as his parish’s website no longer even mentions him, though videos of him singing and playing guitar at a worship service remain available on Vimeo. In one, he sings “my debt is paid.” The judge will see about that. If it is proven that Parakh and Kennedy attempted to hire an underage girl for sex, the charges could carry a 60-year prison sentence.
“During the three-day operation, undercover Agents posted ads on Backpage.com. During that time, more than 300 contacts were made to those ads. In one ad the Agents posed as a juvenile girl. That ad received more than two dozen contacts,” TBI Newsroom reports.
“Finding these people who are trying to buy Tennessee children is a priority for us,” said TBI Director Mark Gwyn. “We want anyone responding to these 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.”
When Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch was asked about the situation he said, “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.”
“We’re changing the conversation about human trafficking,” said TBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Margie Quin. “These operations are designed to identify and help victims of trafficking, as well as take these predators off the street.”
Watch a report on the story from WVLT below: