Two Christian pastors were among dozens of people arrested in a sting operation where suspects allegedly sought sex with underage girls, Tennessee officials said.
Jason Kennedy and Zubin Parakh were caught after answering online ads, said Mark Gwyn, director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
Kennedy, 46, was the children’s pastor at Grace Baptist Church and Parakh, 32, was creative pastor at Life House Church, according to Gwyn. They were among 32 men and women arrested in an anti-trafficking operation, according to a bureau statement.
"Our work is not finished. We want to make sure there is no safe place to hide for criminals who would victimize the most vulnerable among us. We want anyone answering an ad for sex to think that a TBI agent and a Knoxville Police officer may be on the other end of that line," said Gwyn.
"These are men from our community. They include an engineer, a volunteer firefighter, a landscaper, a student. These are people we work with and live with," he said.
Parakh was arrested after responding to an ad promising sex with underage girls, Gwyn said.
Both were charged with patronizing prostitution and human trafficking, according to the TBI statement.
Kennedy was fired after his arrest, his church said in a statement.
"The actions of the children’s pastor for which he has been arrested were part of his life outside the church, and we have received no questions or concerns related to his conduct within the church or its ministries," Grace Baptist church leaders said.
A background check was performed when Kennedy was hired more than two years ago, the church said, and turned up no problems. “We are praying for his family and will continue to provide the services of our ministry to them,” the statement said.
Parakh’s name no longer appears on Life House’s website.
Messages left at both churches by InsideEdition.com were not immediately returned Monday.
Parakh is being held in lieu of $100,000 and Kennedy is being held in lieu of $50,000 bail at the Knox County Jail, according to online records. It was not clear whether they had been arraigned.