A high school teacher, college football player and state IT specialist were among the 41 people arrested as part of a three-day sting to crack down on human trafficking in Nashville, Tennessee.
As part of "Operation Someone Like Me," undercover agents posted ads on the classified site, Backpage.com, to find people who were willing to pay to have sex with juveniles, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said at a news conference Friday. They got 485 responses.
"This is our most significant operation to date," TBI Director Mark Gwyn said.
Agents posed as juveniles in some of the ads, and 18 of the men paid to have sex with an underage female.
Also arrested were six women and a juvenile. The oldest person arrested was 63.
The 41 people busted were charged with either patronizing prostitution, prostitution, or in one case, simple possession and solicitation of a minor.
"We’re not going to arrest our way out of this problem. This is all demand-driven," Gwyn said in a statement. "These men paying for sex with children in our state are only continuing to victimize girls and women. It’s wrong, it’s illegal, and we will pursue these operations in small towns and big cities for as long as it takes."
The operation was launched in May 2015, and nearly 150 people have been arrested in various sweeps, the TBI said. The Metro Nashville Police Department, Homeland Security Investigations, the FBI and the nonprofit End Slavery Tennessee have all assisted.
End Slavery Tennessee will offer housing, counseling and treatment to the women who were found to be part of the human trafficking. One of the women was placed in a safe house, authorities added.
The Davidson County District Attorney’s office is handling the cases.