9 charged in West Knoxville motel prostitution bust

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – The Knox County Sheriff’s Office Vice Unit arrested seven men and two women during an undercover operation at a West Knoxville motel on Thursday.

Police were conducting a reverse prostitution operation by posting on Backpage.com under the escorts section. Defendants booked appointments at the Motel 6, located on Harry Lane Boulevard in Knoxville and exchanged money for sex. The motel is within 1.5 miles of Cedar Bluff elementary and middle schools, as well as Knoxville Catholic High School.

Katelen Elisabeth Shepherd, 19, was charged with prostitution after officers said they spotted her listing in the escorts section of Backpage.com. A detective contacted Shepherd and made an appointment. She met him at the motel and once she arrived she required him to perform a “leo check” by touching her breast.

“Leo check” is slang for law enforcement check. These are several different tests used by hookers and johns in order to supposedly prove that he or she is not a police officer.

The undercover officer paid $160 in cash for one half hour of full service sex. Shepherd was taken into custody for prostitution.

Those arrested include:

  • Richard Gilberto O’Neil, 48, of Knoxville was arrested and charged with patronizing prostitution and resisting arrest.
  • James Joseph Seidler, 55, of Clark Range, Tennessee was arrested and charged with patronizing prostitution.
  • James Roy Brown, 41, of Greenback, Tennessee was arrested and charged with patronizing prostitution.
  • Omar Garcia Rodriguez, 25, of Loudon, Tennessee was arrested and charged with patronizing prostitution.
  • Michael Shane Grace, 41, of Oliver Springs, Tennessee was arrested and charged with patronizing prostitution.
  • Alberto Parra, 43, of Knoxville was arrested and charged with patronizing prostitution.
  • Jose Armando Aron-Matute, 45, of Knoxville was arrested and charged with patronizing prostitution.
  • Katelen Elisabeth Shepherd, 19, of Louisville, Tennessee was arrested and charged with prostitution.
  • Monica Upton, 25, of Knoxville was arrested and charged with driving without a license. She has a criminal history in Knox County that includes prostitution, impersonation of a licensed professional, theft, and burglary

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