Tennessee police net 22 men for seeking sex with girls 14 and 16

NEW YORK, Nov 10 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Police have charged 22 people in a wealthy Nashville, Tennessee, suburb after the men agreed to pay to have sex with underage girls whose online profiles had been created by law enforcement agents, authorities said.

The results of a four-day operation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is the latest major case involving Backpage.com, an online classified site that has been accused of promoting sex trafficking and where the men sought the ads.

The men arrested in the southern U.S. town of Brentwood were charged with prostitution-related charges in what police called a "human trafficking operation."

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Suspects indicted in human trafficking operation
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Suspects indicted in human trafficking operation

An undercover human trafficking operation resulted in mostly felony indictments for 22 men in a targeted effort to identify individuals attempting to purchase illicit sex from minors, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

(Photo: Tennessee Bureau of Investigation)

Francisco Badillo
  • 1 count Patronizing Prostitution of a Minor (Class A Felony)
  • 1 count Patronizing Prostitution of a Minor (Class B Felony)
  • 2 counts Patronizing Prostitution
  • 2 counts Solicitation to Commit Aggravated Statutory Rape
  •  2 counts Solicitation to Commit Patronizing Prostitution of a Minor

(Photo: Tennessee Bureau of Investigation)

Ibrahim Demyan

  • 1 count Patronizing Prostitution of a Minor (Class A Felony)
  • 1 count Patronizing Prostitution of a Minor (Class B Felony)
  • 2 counts Patronizing Prostitution
  •  2 counts Solicitation to Commit Aggravated Statutory Rape
  • 2 counts Solicitation to Commit Patronizing Prostitution of a Minor

(Photo: Tennessee Bureau of Investigation)

Luis Gonzalez-Garcia

  • 1 count Patronizing Prostitution of a Minor (Class B Felony)
  • 1 count Patronizing Prostitution
  •  1 count Solicitation to Commit Aggravated Statutory Rape
  • 1 count Solicitation to Commit Patronizing Prostitution of a Minor

(Photo: Tennessee Bureau of Investigation)

Terry William Garner

  • 1 count Patronizing Prostitution of a Minor (Class A Felony) 
  • 1 count Patronizing Prostitution of a Minor (Class B Felony)
  • 2 counts Patronizing Prostitution
  •  2 counts Solicitation to Commit Aggravated Statutory Rape
  •  2 counts Solicitation to Commit Patronizing Prostitution of a Minor
  • 1 count Simple Possession of Marijuana
  • 1 count Possession of Drug Paraphernalia

(Photo: Tennessee Bureau of Investigation)

Mohamed Hassan

  • 1 count Patronizing Prostitution of a Minor (Class A Felony)
  •  1 count Patronizing Prostitution of a Minor (Class B Felony)
  • 2 counts Patronizing Prostitution
  • 2 counts Solicitation to Commit Aggravated Statutory Rape
  • 2 counts Solicitation to Commit Patronizing Prostitution of a Minor

(Photo: Tennessee Bureau of Investigation)

Jeremiah McSpaddin

  • 1 count Patronizing Prostitution of a Minor (Class B Felony)
  • 1 count Patronizing Prostitution
  • 1 count Solicitation to Commit Aggravated Statutory Rape
  • 1 count Solicitation to Commit Patronizing Prostitution of a Minor
  • 1 count Simple Possession of Marijuana

(Photo: Tennessee Bureau of Investigation)

Ajay Kumar Mistry

  • 1 count Patronizing Prostitution of a Minor (Class A Felony)
  • 1 count Patronizing Prostitution of a Minor (Class B Felony)
  • 2 counts Patronizing Prostitution
  • 2 counts Solicitation to Commit Aggravated Statutory Rape
  • 2 counts Solicitation to Commit Patronizing Prostitution of a Minor

(Photo: Tennessee Bureau of Investigation)

Jerwon Robinson

  • 1 count Patronizing Prostitution of a Minor (Class A Felony)
  • 1 count Patronizing Prostitution of a Minor (Class B Felony), 2 counts Patronizing Prostitution
  • 2 counts Solicitation to Commit Aggravated Statutory Rape
  • 2 counts Solicitation to Commit Patronizing Prostitution of a Minor
  •  1 count Sexual Exploitation of a Minor
  •  1 count Simple Possession

(Photo: Tennessee Bureau of Investigation)

Orozco-Gelacio Navarro

  • 1 count Patronizing Prostitution of a Minor (Class A Felony)
  • 1 count Patronizing Prostitution of a Minor (Class B Felony)
  • 2 counts Patronizing Prostitution
  • 2 counts Solicitation to Commit Aggravated Statutory Rape
  • 2 counts Solicitation to Commit Patronizing Prostitution of a Minor

(Photo: Tennessee Bureau of Investigation)

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They include a computer programmer, an automotive engineer, a construction worker and a chef, the agency said in a statement about the operation conducted last month.

In the online sting, undercover agents posed as 14- and 16-year-old girls in ads on Backpage.com.

Several dozen would-be customers answered the ads, police said at a news conference posted in a Facebook video. Twenty two showed up at a hotel in hopes of meeting the girls for sex, where they were apprehended.

In the United States, sex trafficking is defined as commercial sex induced by force, fraud or coercion, or involving a minor under the age of 18.

RELATED: Human trafficking issues around the world

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Human trafficking issues around the world
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Human trafficking issues around the world
SHAMLAPUR, BANGLADESH - JULY 4: A photograph of Rohingya trafficking victim Mohammad Aiaz is seen July 4, 2015 in Shamlapur, Bangladesh. On March 5, 2015 Aiaz met a man who promised to take him to a good job in Malaysia for free. He left Bangladesh with 13 other Rohingya. A few days after that his mother, Lila Begum, got a phone call from her son saying he was on the ship and that she needed to pay a man in Teknaf 200,000 taka ($2,570) or he would be killed. She managed to pay 175,000 but she has not heard from her son since. In the past months thousands of Rohingya have landed on the shores of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, many of them by way of Bangladesh. The Rohingya pay up to $2,000 to traffickers, and they sail out from Bangladesh's southern coastline on fishing boats to meet larger ships in the deep sea that will take them to Malaysia. UNHCR estimates that there are more than 300,000 Rohingya living in Bangladesh. (Photo by Shazia Rahman/Getty Images)
An armed Malaysian policeman checks a driver's documentations a day after the government announced the discovery of camps and graves, the first such sites found in Malaysia since a regional human-trafficking crisis erupted earlier this month, near Malaysia-Thailand borders in Wang Kelian on May 25, 2015. A total of 139 grave sites and 28 human-trafficking camps have been found in a remote northern Malaysian border region, the country's top police official told reporters. AFP PHOTO / MOHD RASFAN (Photo credit should read MOHD RASFAN/AFP/Getty Images)
A journalist takes photo of 24 alleged human traffickers' pictures displayed on a board, released by Italian police during a press conference in Palermo on April 20, 2015. AFP PHOTO / MARCELLO PATERNOSTRO (Photo credit should read MARCELLO PATERNOSTRO/AFP/Getty Images)
Sex workers and sympathizers demonstrate on April 9, 2015 against the closure of window brothels by the municipality in the red light district in Amsterdam. With Project 1012, the Amsterdam wants to close window prostitution to prevent crime, human trafficking and degradation. AFP PHOTO / ANP / ROBIN VAN LONKHUIJSEN - netherlands out - (Photo credit should read ROBIN VAN LONKHUIJSEN/AFP/Getty Images)
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CURBING DEMAND

The sting operation was an attempt at curbing sex-trafficking demand, authorities said, an aspect of modern-day slavery advocates say is neglected by police who often focus on arresting trafficked victims coerced into prostitution.

"This is, without a doubt, a demand-driven crime," said Jason Locke, deputy director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

"Quite simply, we need men to expect more from themselves," he told reporters on Thursday.

Backpage.com, a classified advertising website where the ads were posted, has faced scrutiny from the U.S. Senate over allegations that it facilitates sex trafficking, especially of children, in its ads.

In trafficking lawsuits filed against it, the company has repeatedly triumphed by arguing it is hosting content, not creating it, and is protected from liability by a federal law that protects free speech, the Communications Decency Act.

But a bill seeking to amend the law to make it easier to sue operators of websites that facilitate online sex trafficking has made headway in the U.S. Senate this week.

The federal Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act was approved in committee, opening the way for a possible vote by the full Senate.

Anti-slavery group Polaris says it has received reports of more than 22,000 sex-trafficking cases in the United States over the last decade. (Reporting by Sebastien Malo @sebastienmalo, Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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