If you drive for about five hours east of Memphis on Interstate 40, you will arrive in Cookville. While not everyone is familiar with the city of about 30,000, it’s the largest community in Putnam County. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation recently announced that 10 men in the area have been arrested on felony sex crime charges.
The men are all accused of attempting to buy sex with minors, a TBI spokesperson said at a new conference.
The TBI said it conducted a three-day sting operation back in February, targeting an alleged human trafficking operation in Putnam County. The law enforcement effort was twofold: trying to find and arrest people who want to buy sex with underage girls, as well as arresting those offering to sell sex.
The Cookeville sting began when TBI placed classified ads on backpage.com in the “Women Seeking Men” category. The website was later shut down by the federal Department of Justice.
The TBI ads were placed by a pair of female agents who identified themselves as between 14 and 17 years old. According to the state agency, the 10 men arrested answered the ads and then arranged to meet a minor female for paid sex.
The 10 were later indicted by a grand jury. Eight of the 10 have been taken into custody. They range in ages from 18 to 51. A TBI spokesperson said those arrested represent a fraction of the hundreds of men responded to the ads, however.
If you have been accused of a sex crime, it is important to speak with a criminal defense attorney before you talk to police or prosecutors.