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TBI: Knoxville man among 14 arrested during human trafficking operation

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CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WATE) — The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation confirmed Saturday afternoon a two-day undercover operation for human trafficking resulted in the arrest of 14 men, all accused of seeking “illicit sex” from minors.

One of the men arrested included Thomas Baggenstoss, 43, of Knoxville.

According to TBI, “Over a two-day period beginning December 9th, as part of an undercover investigation aimed at addressing human trafficking in East Tennessee, authorities placed several decoy advertisements on websites known to be linked to prostitution and commercial sex cases. The focus of the operation was to identify individuals seeking to engage in commercial sex acts with minors. As a result of the operation, detectives and agents arrested 14 men and booked them into the Hamilton County Jail.”

TBI adds that part of the operation also focused on identifying potential victims of trafficking. One adult woman was offered services such as housing and counseling through Grow Free Tennessee, a program of the Community Coalition Against Human Trafficking, and Willowbend Farms.

Below is the list of those arrested from the operation.

  • Gregory Joiner (DOB 7/12/60), Chattanooga:  Trafficking for Commercial Sex Act
  • Thomas Baggenstoss (DOB 3/6/77), Knoxville: Trafficking for Commercial Sex Act
  • Rubelino Velasquez Salas (DOB 1/6/89), Chattanooga: Trafficking for Commercial Sex Act
  • William Fugate (DOB 8/18/76), Riceville: Trafficking for Commercial Sex Act
  • Jerome Stewart (DOB 10/17/95) Chattanooga: Trafficking for Commercial Sex Act, Possession of Marijuana
  • Michael Scarlett (DOB 3/3/98), Houston, TX: Trafficking for Commercial Sex Act
  • Khadim Gueye (DOB 9/26/87), Chattanooga, TN: Trafficking for Commercial Sex Act
  • Sibley Evans (DOB 7/10/77), Lupton City: Trafficking for Commercial Sex Act
  • Aurelio Hernandez (DOB 9/25/88), Roanoke, VA: Trafficking for Commercial Sex Act
  • Thomas Cochran (DOB 4/27/78), Carrollton, GA: Trafficking for Commercial Sex Act, Possession of Meth, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia
  • Nicholas Underwood (DOB 9/9/99), Cohutta, GA: Trafficking for Commercial Sex Act, Possession of a Firearm While in Commission of a Felony
  • Bersain Velasquez (DOB 5/24/79), Chattanooga: Trafficking for Commercial Sex Act
  • Qu’darius Smith (DOB 12/10/97), Chattanooga: Trafficking for Commercial Sex Act, Possession of Meth, Possession of Marijuana
  • Nelvin Cruz-Cruz (DOB 2/17/72), Lilburn, GA: Trafficking for Commercial Sex Act

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