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Greene County is a county of about 69,000 residents in northeastern Tennessee, located roughly 70 miles east of Knoxville on the border with North Carolina. Its county seat is Greeneville. Prostitution and drugs have been documented in the county, resulting in complaints to law enforcement.
To combat consumer-level demand in the county, web-based reverse stings have been conducted by the Greene County Sheriff’s Department. For example, in December 2021, a two-day undercover operation by Special Agents with the TBI Human Trafficking Unit and Task Force and Greene County detectives resulted in the arrest of seven men accused of seeking illicit paid sexual abuse of minors. The operation sought to address human trafficking in eastern Tennessee. Law enforcement placed several decoy advertisements on websites known to be linked to prostitution and commercial sex cases. The seven sex buyers arrested were booked into the Greene County Jail and their names, ages, hometowns, and arrest photos were released to the press. Each of them was charged with trafficking for commercial sex act.
Not all arrests of sex buyers in Greene County have been the result of stings using police decoys. Some have been the product of investigations into allegations of offenses against real victims, and the consequences beyond the arrest have included public identity disclosure and loss of employment. For example, in May 2015, a Greene County Commissioner was arrested and charged with patronizing prostitution after a 28-year-old woman called the police department to report an older white male with gray hair and glasses trying to solicit her for sex. According to a witness, the man kept motioning for her to come over to his car. The two women reported this had happened on previous occasions as well. The next day, they identified the county commissioner in a photo line-up as the person who solicited them for sex. In July 2015, the man was sentenced to 11 months and 29 days probation after entering an “Alford plea,” which means he did not admit guilt but rather acknowledged the government had enough evidence to get a possible conviction. The man resigned in August from his 7th District seat; the Greene County Mayor read his resignation letter at a commission meeting and it was approved unanimously.
In June 2018, a detective with the Greenville Police Department reported that he had received a text message to his department-issued cell phone from a 51-year-old man. During the text exchange the man reportedly asks for sex in exchange for narcotics. Arrangements were made to meet, and at that arranged time the man appeared at the meeting place with a baggie and a prescription bottle, each containing pills. The man was arrested and was ordered to appear in court at a later time. The man was charged with attempting to engage in prostitution in exchange for drugs and attempted delivery of a Schedule 4 drug. His identity and arrest photo were posted on the Greene County Sheriff’s Department’s social media page.
- Greene County Sheriff’s Department
- TBI Human Trafficking Unit and Task Force
- Greeneville Police Department
- Greene County Mayor
- Greene County Commission
Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- https://wcyb.com/greene-county-sheriff-seven-arrested-undercover-human-trafficking-operation (2021)
- https://www.wvlt.tv/human-trafficking-sting-leads-arrest-7-men-says-green-co-sheriffs-office (2021)
- https://www.wbir.com/article/news/crime/human-trafficking-operation-east-tennessee (2021)
Sex Buyer Arrest, Identity Disclosure:
- https://www.wate.com/greene-county-commissioner-charged-with-patronizing-prostitution (2015)
- https://wcyb.com/news/tennessee-news/court-date-for-commissioner-accused-of-patronizing-prostitute (2015)
- https://www.greenevillesun.com/co-commissioner-seay-charged-with-patronizing-prostitution (2015)
- https://www.wjhl.com/greene-co-commissioner-enters-alford-plea-in-patronizing-prostitution-charge (2015)
- https://www.greenevillesun.com/news/local_news/hilton-seay-pleads-no-contest-to-patronizing-prostitution (2015)
- https://m.facebook.com/GreeneCountyTNSO/photos/baileyton-man-charged-with-soliciting-prostitution (2018)
Sex Buyer Fired or Resigned Due to Arrest:
- https://wcyb.com/news/tennessee-news/greene-co-commissioner-hilton-seay-resigns (2015)
- https://www.greenevillesun.com/hilton-seay-resigns-county-comm-seat (2015)
Background on Prostitution in the Area: