Bail bond owner arrested in undercover prostitution sting in Chattanooga

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — The owner of one of the largest bail bonding companies in eastern Tennessee is accused of accepting an offer of sex from an undercover officer posing as a 17-year-old girl, authorities said.

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Thomas “Andy” Baggenstoss, 43, of Knoxville, was charged with trafficking for commercial sex acts, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported. His bail was set at $50,000, according to Hamilton County court records.

Baggenstoss’ arrest was part of a two-day undercover operation for human trafficking conducted by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, WATE reported. Fourteen men, including Baggenstoss, were arrested, the agency confirmed Saturday.

According to Hamilton County court records, Baggenstoss, allegedly responded to an internet ad from his cellphone and agreed to meet the undercover Chattanooga police officer, who stated she was 17 years old, at a hotel room near the Hamilton Place mall, the Times Free Press reported.

Baggenstoss met the undercover officer and allegedly gave her $100 in cash in exchange for sex, began to undress and groped the officer, the newspaper reported.

“I’m concerned by what I see as a charge of trafficking that does not appear to me, on its face, to be any different from the typical patronizing prostitution case — not in any way minimizing that,” Baggenstoss’ attorney, Lee Davis, told the Times Free Press. “We are in the course of our investigation, and from what we understand, this was a case where consenting adults were meeting at a local hotel and they were busted by police. We are still looking into it.

“Sex trafficking is a terrible crime and should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” Davis told the newspaper. “Soliciting prostitution is completely different. And while illegal and wrong, it is not sex trafficking.”