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7 men arrested in connection to East Tenn. human trafficking operation

Authorities began the two-day undercover investigation on June 9 in an attempt to address human trafficking in East Tennessee.
Officials with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said seven men were arrested and accused...
Officials with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said seven men were arrested and accused of seeking illicit sex from minors following a two-day undercover operation.(TBI)
Updated: Jun. 11, 2021 at 2:10 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Officials with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said seven men were arrested and accused of seeking illicit sex from minors following a two-day undercover operation.

According to TBI, authorities began the two-day undercover investigation on June 9 in an attempt to address human trafficking in East Tennessee.

Authorities placed several decoy advertisements on websites that are known to be linked to prostitution and commercial sex cases, officials said. The operation aimed to identify individuals that were seeking to engage in commercial sex acts with minors.

As a result of the investigation seven men were arrested and booked into the Unicoi County Jail:

  • Mark Daniel Higgins (DOB 1/31/62), Asheville, NC: Solicitation of a Minor by Electronic Means, Solicitation of a Minor
  • Jeffrey Lynn Rhoney (DOB 5/8/60), Arden, NC: Trafficking for a Commercial Sex Act (2 counts), Solicitation of a Minor
  • Steven Charles Mayes (DOB 12/19/73), Morristown: Trafficking for a Commercial Sex Act, Solicitation of a Minor
  • Benjamin Bouchot Moreno (DOB 6/15/70), Asheville, NC: Trafficking for a Commercial Sex Act (2 counts), Solicitation of a Minor(2 counts)
  • Jose Raul Delgado Andrade (DOB 6/5/80), Johnson City: Trafficking for a Commercial Sex Act, Solicitation of a Minor
  • Alberto Vazquez Gonzalez (DOB 4/1/75), Bristol, VA: Trafficking for a Commercial Sex Act, Solicitation of a Minor
  • Randall Dale Staton (DOB 9/5/66), Bakersville, NC: Trafficking for a Commercial Sex Act, Solicitation of a Minor

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 assisted TBI agents in the undercover operation.

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