Multiple agencies including the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Shelby County Sheriff's Office and Memphis Police arrested and cited 42 people in Memphis, during Operation Someone Like Me.
These agencies teamed up to fight human trafficking, particularly of underage girls in Memphis and Shelby County. The three-day operation included undercover agents from TBI who solicited or sold sex on backpage.com
"We will recover more victims we will arrest more buyers were committed to doing anything and everything possible to address this kind of crime," said TBI Director Mark Gwyn. "The women you see advertised online are people, not products we need to be meant to step up and demand better for themselves and the men around them."
Gwyn says the people arrested were among professions like engineers and medical professionals.
Among the arrests was Memphis Area Transit Authority CEO Ron Garrison. He was accused of soliciting sex from an adult and charged with a patronizing prostitution near a church or school. It is a misdemeanor offense. Garrison resigned Thursday morning but said it was due to health reasons.
"The number of men who responded to our ad this week was staggering," TBI Deputy Director Jason Locke said. "The total number of unique contacts was 522 individuals of those approximately 475 different men contacted us in the three days wanting to purchase illicit sex."
A total of 8,779 texts and phone calls were made back and forth between these individuals and undercover agents.
"Those who are charged with these felonies are looking at 15 to 25 years in some cases 8 to 12 years and others," said Amy Weirich, 30th District Attorney General.
MATA released the following statement Friday morning:
"As it relates to today's announcement from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation regarding former MATA CEO Ron Garrison, this in no way diminishes the contributions of Mr. Garrison at MATA during his tenure over the last few years. MATA and its Board of Commissioners wish him well in his future endeavors. But, our top priority as an organization is to remain committed to the number one task at hand, and that is diligently serving the Memphis public and our customers by identifying dedicated funding sources and ensuring that public transit is a reliable option for the Memphis area. While the leadership may have changed at MATA, our commitment to our mission has not."
The Memphis City Council requested the mayor approved an audit of MATA to ensure tax dollars were not misused.