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Former MATA CEO arrested in sting; mayor responds

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- “I was very surprised to hear the news, obviously disappointed and saddened.”

That’s Mayor Jim Strickland’s response to not only hearing about the high number of men looking for prostitution services online, but also hearing a familiar name among the list of those arrested.

Former MATA CEO Ron Garrison was taken into custody with over 40 other people during an undercover prostitution sting led by the TBI.

Undercover agents lured him and the others to hotels after posing as women and underage girls online.

“I think he made the right decision to resign," Mayor Strickland added.

Garrison suddenly announced his resignation from CEO at MATA on Thursday, releasing a statement that cited health issues as his reason for the departure.

Less than 24 hours later, we learned he was arrested for patronizing prostitution on Wednesday.

“We need men to step up and demand better from themselves and the men around them," said TBI Director Mark Gwyn.

TBI leaders said Garrison went online to find an adult woman to pay for sex, but was really chatting with an undercover agent.

“The message is no one’s above the law and also, the message is we’re out here looking," said Gwyn.

WREG went looking for the arrest documents for Garrison but had no luck from any of the participating agencies. We also went to Garrison’s house to get his side of the story, but no one answered the door.

Although his arrest took many by surprise, city leaders said they don’t want it to be a distraction from the bigger picture.

The TBI sting shows a lot of people are demanding these services, which means even more are being abused by them.

“That she wants to be there is the biggest misconception. That she’s choosing this life. That this is a victimless crime," said Restore Corps Executive Director Rachel Sumner Haaga.

She said there are plenty of survivors who can tell you that’s not the case.