ALCOA, Tenn. (WATE) — Several men in East Tennessee were arrested this week during an undercover operation to identify suspects seeking illicit sex from minors.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation placed decoy advertisements on Aug. 4-5 on websites known to be linked to prostitution and commercial sex cases in an effort to identify individuals seeking to engage in commercial sex acts with minors.

As a result of the operation, authorities arrested seven men. All seven were charged with one count of trafficking for a commercial sex act.

  • Rene Gonzalez, 44, of Sevierville
  • Hardkumar Patel, 31, of Knoxville
  • Jorge Pickens, 21, of Knoxville
  • Bradford Hartman, 34, of Maryville
  • Kenneth Price, 61, of Rogersville
  • Jeremiah Williams, 23, of Knoxville
  • Chethan Ranganatha, 40, of Knoxville

They were booked into the Blount County Jail with a bond amount ranging from $25,000-$35,000.

The operation also aimed to identify potential victims of trafficking. Two adult women were cited and offered services such as housing and counseling through Grow Free Tennessee, a program of the Community Coalition Against Human Trafficking.