A Bristol, Virginia man is among seven people arrested in a human trafficking sting in Erwin, authorities said Friday.
The men, including Alberto Vazquez Gonzalez, 46, are accused of seeking illicit sex from minors, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. The state agency’s Human Trafficking Unit, the Erwin Police Department, the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Office, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, Jonesborough Police Department and the First District Attorney General’s Office conducted a two-day undercover operation, the TBI said in a news release.
Beginning June 9, 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 TBI said. The focus of the operation was to identify individuals seeking to engage in sex acts with minors, the agency said.
As a result of the investigation, seven men were arrested and booked into the Unicoi County Jail.
Gonzalez was charged with trafficking a commercial sex act and solicitation of a minor.
Others arrested in the sting include Mark Daniel Higgins, 59, of Asheville, North Carolina; Jeffrey Lynn Rhoney, 61, of Arden, North Carolina; Steven Charles Mayes, 47, of Morristown, Tennessee; Benjamin Bouchot Moreno, 50, of Asheville; Jose Raul Delgado Andrade, 41, of Johnson City; and Randall Dale Staton, 54, of Bakersville, North Carolina. All of the men, except Higgins, have been charged with trafficking for a commercial sex act and solicitation of a minor. Higgins was charged with solicitation of a minor by electronic means and solicitation of a minor.