FBI sting frees 105 abused youths
A nationwide sting focused on underage prostitution in the US has freed 105 sexually abused youths and netted 150 pimps, the FBI says.
Most of the minors rescued during the three-day operation in 76 cities are aged 13 to 16, says Ronald Hosko, assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division.
‘Our goal is that child trafficking is openly discussed,’ Hosko told reporters on Monday.
‘We are trying to take this crime out of the shadows and put a spotlight on it … to put them (the children) out of the cycle.’
The sweep took place in conjunction with local, state, and federal law enforcement, as well as the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).
NCMEC CEO John Ryan said the sting, dubbed Operation Cross Country, ‘demonstrates just how many of America’s children are being sold for sex every day, many on the internet’.
The busts typically began by targeting truck stops, casinos, as well as websites that advertise dating or escort services, the FBI said. The detained often ended up helping uncover wider networks of prostitution that cross state lines, turning it into a federal crime.
The operation was part of the bureau’s Innocence Lost National Initiative, which, since its launch in 2003, has been involved in the rescue of more than 2,700 sexually exploited children.
FBI agent Kurt Ormberg, involved in that operation, said vulnerable children tend to be seeking to fill a void, often related to problems at home.
‘Too often,’ he said, ‘these young victims don’t think they have anywhere else to turn.’
There have been 1,350 convictions from the Innocent Lost initiative’s investigations, resulting ‘in lengthy sentences, including 10 life terms and the seizure of more than $US3.1 million in assets,’ the FBI statement said.