OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (WATE) – A two-day undercover operation by federal, state and local law enforcement resulted in the arrest of nine men accused of seeking illicit sex with minors.
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, authorities arrested nine men and booked them into the Anderson County Jail.
The men and their charges include:
- Juan N. Gomez, 42, of Knoxville: Trafficking for a commercial sex act
- Alex E. Hickey, 55, of Jefferson City: Two counts of trafficking for a commercial sex act
- Darron C. Hickman, 53, of Knoxville: Trafficking for a commercial sex act and possession of a controlled substance
- Jose W. Salguero, 35, of Maryville: Two counts of trafficking for a commercial sex act
- Michael J. Slover, 54, of Oak Ridge: Two counts of trafficking for a commercial sex act and sexual battery
- Jeremy R. Williams, 35, of Tellico Plains: Two counts of trafficking for a commercial sex act
- Joshua S. Wilson, 32, of Oak Ridge: Two counts of trafficking for a commercial sex act
- Joshua D. Winningham, 26, of Knoxville: Two counts of trafficking for a commercial sex act and two counts of soliciting sexual exploitation of a minor
Additionally, Michael J. Houck, 54, of Concord, was charged with two counts of patronizing prostitution.
Part of the operation also focused on identifying potential victims of trafficking. Two adult women were identified and offered services such as housing and counseling through Grow Free Tennessee, a program of the Knoxville-based Community Coalition Against Human Trafficking.
Law enforcement officers from the 7th Judicial Task Force, District Attorney General Dave Clark’s office, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Human Trafficking Unit, Anderson County Sheriff’s Department and Oak Ridge Police Department took part in the operation.
“We have a great relationship with the TBI, and we appreciate the bureau taking interest in conducting an operation like this in Oak Ridge,” Police Chief Robin Smith said. “This operation was bigger than just one agency, and we could not have pulled it off without the help from the TBI, CTF, Anderson County Sheriff’s Office, and the 7th Judicial District Attorney General’s Office.”
Clark said ORPD took the initiative to hold the sting in response to several recent instances of men soliciting sex from local minors online.
“Your law enforcement community is working hard and smart to protect our children,” he said. “Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for kids to not appreciate the dangers posed by anonymous people online who they may thing of as their online ‘friend’ of a similar age. The sad modern reality is that there can be predators lurking out there looking for an opportunity to meet a child where they think they can find a child.”
The men are scheduled to be arraigned April 6 in Anderson County General Sessions Court.