KNOXVILLE, Tenn., May 27 (UPI) -- Two ministers have been arrested as part of year-long sting operation to fight prostitution and human trafficking in minors in Tennessee, officials said.
Overall, 32 men and women were arrested in the operation, where agents posed online as underage girls and women. Tennessee law enforcement officials arrested 25 men on charges of felony promoting prostitution or patronizing a prostitute, and five women on charges of prostitution.
The two ministers arrested were Jason Kennedy, a youth pastor, and Zubin Parakh, a volunteer "creative pastor" at different churches in the Knoxville area, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said in a statement.
The ministers replied to ads on backpage.com, a website used for finding sex partners. Kennedy arranged to have sex with two girls under age 18, while Parakh agreed to have sex with one underage girl, whom he believed to be 17 years old.
Grace Baptist Church in Knoxville County said it has terminated Kennedy.
The arrests were largest group yet in the year since Gov. Bill Haslam gave jurisdiction in trafficking cases to the TBI.
"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."