5 arrested in Grainger County sex trafficking sting

5 arrested in Grainger County sex trafficking sting

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Over 2 pounds of marijuana were seized during the search. Over 2 pounds of marijuana were seized during the search.
By STEPHANIE BEECKEN
6 News Reporter

RUTLEDGE (WATE) – Five people were arrested after authorities made a sex and drug trafficking bust in Grainger County. A 13-year-old was found at a home on Highway 92 in Rutledge during the sting. Authorities are still investigating to see if minors were victimized in the sex trafficking operation.

The neighbors 6 News spoke with were shocked that this alleged activity could occur in Grainger County. One woman told 6 News the bust proves the new chief deputy and soon to be Sheriff James Harville is tough on crime and is doing his job to clean up the community.

Deborah Bates has lived in Grainger County for five years. She describes her rural neighborhood as quiet and quaint.

“It's just a nice place to live and to raise your children here,” said Bates.

Just down the road from her peaceful home on Highway 92, authorities arrested five people.

“I'm shocked. It’s amazing that it could be this close to home,” said Bates.

Members of the Grainger County Sheriff’s Department along with the Tennessee Alcohol Beverage Commission, Tennessee Highway Patrol Criminal Investigation Division, Knox County Sheriff’s Department Vice Unit, and Homeland Security raided a home on 3422 Highway 92 in Rutledge in reference to a sex trafficking investigation Thursday afternoon.

The GCSD reports that during the search of the home several items related to the prostitution operation were seized along with over two pounds of marijuana and a undisclosed amount of cocaine. Also recovered in the search was a pistol which had been reported stolen in Knox County. A 2007 Kawasaki motorcycle and a food preparation trailer, both reported stolen in Knoxville, were also found.

Department of Children Services was notified and responded due to the fact that a 13-year-old was at the residence at the time of the operation.

Five individuals at the home during the search were arrested. Rhonda Robinson, 46, of Rutledge, Tenn. has been charged with sex trafficking, possession of marijuana with intent to resell, possession of cocaine and unlawful possession of a firearm. Jose Martinez, 26, of Knoxville, Tenn. has been charged with possession of marijuana with intent to resell and possession of cocaine. Myala Jo Black, 26, of Cherryfork, Ohio has been charged with prostitution. Stephen Luttrell, 42, of Knoxville, Tenn. has been charged with patronizing prostitution and child neglect, and Carl Sellers, 41, or Knoxville, Tenn. has been charged with patronizing prostitution.

Detectives are still investigating whether minors have been victimized in the sex trafficking operation.

It was such a serious situation that homeland security was called in to assist.

“In some of the bigger cities and in other states it's becoming a problem of them bringing participants in from other countries,” said Harville.

Sheriff-elect James Harville says law enforcement needs the community to continue to report any suspicious activity. He says a concerned resident called about traffic at the home which lead to this drug and sex trafficking bust.

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