ERWIN, TN (WSMV) -  An undercover operation  involving multiple law enforcement agencies arrested seven men in Erwin accused of "attempting to purchase illicit sex from minors."

The investigation aimed at addressing human trafficking in East Tennessee started on June 9. Authorities said the goal of the investigation was to find people who were "seeking to engage in commercial sex acts with minors."

During their investigation, authorities placed "several decoy advertisements on websites known to be linked to prostitution and commercial sex cases." The investigation led to the arrest of the following men:

  • Mark Daniel Higgins, 59, Asheville, NC: Solicitation of a Minor by Electronic Means, Solicitation of a Minor
  • Jeffrey Lynn Rhoney, 61, Arden, NC: Trafficking for a Commercial Sex Act (2 counts), Solicitation of a Minor (2 counts), Purchase of Alcohol for Someone Under 21
  • Steven Charles Mayes, 47, Morristown: Trafficking for a Commercial Sex Act, Solicitation of a Minor
  • Benjamin Bouchot Moreno, 50, Asheville, NC: Trafficking for a Commercial Sex Act (2 counts), Solicitation of a Minor(2 counts)
  • Jose Raul Delgado Andrade, 41, Johnson City: Trafficking for a Commercial Sex Act, Solicitation of a Minor
  • Alberto Vazquez Gonzalez, 46, Bristol, VA: Trafficking for a Commercial Sex Act, Solicitation of a Minor
  • Randall Dale Staton, 54, Bakersville, NC: Trafficking for a Commercial Sex Act, Solicitation of a Minor

All seven men are currently in the Unicoi County Jail. The TBI Human Trafficking Unit, the Erwin Police Department, the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Office, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, the Jonesborough Police Department, and the office of 1st District Attorney General Ken Baldwin all participated in the investigation.

 

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