The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Human Trafficking Unit and Spring Hill Police Department collaborated on a two-day undercover investigation that resulted in the arrest of nearly a dozen men in Middle Tennessee, three of whom are charged with solicitation of a minor.
According to the TBI, investigators placed false advertisements on sites known to be used for commercial sex earlier this month in an attempt to target those conducting illegal acts in Spring Hill. Lt. Justin Whitwell, the public information officer for the Spring Hill Police Department, explained this operation was not spurred by a tip but rather was meant to target a city that has not been as much of a focus for human trafficking stings as some of its larger-scale neighbors.
“These types of operations haven’t been conducted much in our area other than, like, Brentwood, Franklin, Nashville,” he said. “We wanted to do our due diligence.”
The operation yielded the arrest of 11 men who were booked into the Maury County Jail. Two of the men were from Williamson County.
Naveen Mogili (born June 17, 1984), Adam Weber (born Nov. 21, 1983) and Schelton Guffey (born July 13, 1992) were charged with solicitation of a minor. The latter was also charged with possession of schedule II narcotics.
Jordan Millican (born Nov. 12, 1991), Raymond Adamson (born March 5, 1974), James Talley (born April 1, 1983) and Avery Whitehead (born June 6, 1986) were charged with patronizing prostitution, the latter via criminal citation without a physical arrest.
Opey McGee (born Sept. 28, 1980), Daniel Crutcher (born April 28, 2000), Thomas Davis (born March 19, 1947) and Mentor Ahmeti (born March 28, 1989) were charged with patronizing prostitution from a minor.
All the men were released from the jail on bonds ranging from $1,500 to $25,000, according to the Maury County Sheriff’s Office.
Susan Niland, senior public information officer with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, explained the bureau has honed these operations over time and have found what works best for them, and as they partner with local law enforcement, they prepare those teams to conduct these investigations on their own. She said it’s important to realize no community is immune from human trafficking threats based on its geography or economy.
“At first glance, if you think about human trafficking, you think about people coming in from other countries and that it’s a lot more visible, and it can’t happen here because I don’t see it,” she said. “But the fact is that it does happen everywhere. It happens in all kinds of communities really regardless of the size, regardless of the economics, regardless of the demographics. … We have been doing these [stings] all across the state, and there has never been a shortage of individuals who are out seeking sex either from juveniles or from adults.”
Niland explained the TBI has been looking into the prevalence of human trafficking and solicitation of sex throughout the state for some time. For example, the TBI partnered with the Vanderbilt Center for Community Studies to release a report in 2011 on sex trafficking in Tennessee.
The report revealed that, in the two years prior to the study’s release, the counties surrounding Williamson recorded staggering numbers of cases related to human trafficking. Davidson recorded over 100 cases of trafficking of a minor and over 100 of an adult. Rutherford recorded 51 to 100 cases of a minor and 26 to 50 of an adult. Maury recorded six to 15 of a minor and 26 to 50 of an adult.
Though Williamson County’s numbers came in lower, human trafficking is not absent, as one to five cases of both trafficking of a minor and an adult were reported in those two years.
The TBI did a follow-up report in 2013 in which Williamson County did not participate.
Margie Quin, the CEO of End Slavery Tennessee, explained the numbers should not deceive people into thinking Williamson County is necessarily better off.
“I don’t think it necessarily happens less in Williamson County, frankly, than anywhere else. I think it happens based on population,” she said. “It doesn’t happen based on, you know, the people in this county or that county are just better people. That’s not how this works. Wherever there is a demand for children to have sex with or demand for paid sex from an adult, you’re going to have commercial sex and trafficking.”
Indeed, Williamson County’s population is lower than some of its surrounding counties. In 2011, when the TBI report was released, the population in Williamson County was just over 188,000. At the time, Davidson County held over 635,000 and Rutherford nearly 269,000. The odd one out is Maury County, coming in around 81,000 in 2011.
Regardless, the TBI found reports of sex trafficking in 78 of the state’s 95 counties just over a two-year period.
End Slavery Tennessee seeks to bring awareness to this issue through community events and offers training for law enforcement, school teachers and whoever else wishes to engage. The organization also provides help for survivors and works with various sectors of the community to instate preventative measures.
Quin said the Franklin chapter is very active and regularly holds community events to spread awareness. In fact, the group is holding a songwriter night on Jan. 31 at St. Philip Catholic Church with a silent auction as a fundraiser and opportunity to share their mission with the community.
Law enforcement encourages members of the public to educate themselves on the warning signs of victimization and ways to help by visiting ithastostop.com and getting involved in organizations like End Slavery Tennessee. More information on the nonprofit can be found at endslaverytn.org.
Those who identify signs of human trafficking should call 911 and the Tennessee Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-855-558-6484 or 1-855-55TNHTH.