Man arrested in Knoxville human trafficking operation has local - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Man arrested in Knoxville human trafficking operation has local connection

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

One man arrested in a Knoxville human trafficking operation used to work at a church in Chattanooga. Zubin Parakh, 32, is facing patronizing prostitution and trafficking charges.

These are charges his former employer, Venue Church, in Chattanooga didn't expect to hear.

"For the families of the victims in this, we're really praying for them. We care about them and feel compassion for them. For Zubin and his family, we're praying for them as well as they walk through this," Pastor Tavner Smith of Venue Church said.

Parakh was an administrative assistant for the church for 7 weeks and started in July of 2015. He also volunteered on the church's worship team and played the guitar and piano.

Pastor Tavner Smith told Channel 3 Parakh was fired and said it had nothing to do with the allegations he's facing.

"You can't judge all churches by the actions of one person or one organization and I can't speak for other pastors, other people, other organizations, but I can speak for Venue and I can say that we're not perfect," Smith said.

Court documents show the 32-year-old responded to an online ad on backpage.com and agreed to have sex for $100 with who he believed to be a 17-year-old at a Best Western in Knoxville. In reality, it was an undercover agent.

More than two dozen people including Parakh were arrested.

READ MORE | Two ministers among 32 arrested in human trafficking operation

"Just really overwhelmed, surprised, sad to hear what happened," Chad Cochran, a friend of Parakh's said.

Cochran has known Parakh for 17 years. He said the charges came as a shock to many of Parakh's friends who live in the Chattanooga area.

"I would have never imagined this. It's just a sad thing. I feel for him. I feel for his parents and his family. I even feel for the victims that were involved in it," Cochran said.

At the time of the sting, Parakh volunteered as a "creative pastor" at Lifehouse Church in Oak Ridge. Representatives from both churches said he never worked with children.

"As a Christian, you read the Bible, anybody can be forgiven. That doesn't make what they did okay and it doesn't mean there's not consequences that come along with actions," Smith said.

Parakh is being held in the Knox County jail on a $100,000 bond. Once released, he will not be allowed to have contact with minors or the victim. He's expected to appear in court on May 31.

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