A suspect is taken into custody as part of Operation Cross Country, a 3-day nationwide enforcement action focusing on underage victims of prostitution. The operation saw the recovery of 105 sexually exploited children and the arrests of 150 pimps and other individuals. (FBI handout)
WASHINGTON (USA TODAY) -- The FBI announced Monday the arrests of 150 people and recovery of
105 children involved in child prostitution rings across the country.
76-city sweep, conducted in the past three days, represents the largest
such law enforcement action focused on children forced into sexual
slavery, federal authorities said.
Assistant FBI Director Ron
Hosko, head of the bureau's criminal division, said the children ranged
from 13 to 17 years old. The youngest of the victims was allegedly being
offered up by her father, who also was allegedly involved in
videotaping his daughter's sexual encounters.
"We have victims
whose new normal is sexual abuse,'' Hosko said. "We are trying to take
this crime out of the shadows and put a spotlight on it.''
operations involving 230 separate law enforcement agencies, authorities
either made arrests or child recoveries from Atlanta to Los Angeles. The
weekend action, called Operation Cross Country, also is the latest in a
national campaign that has helped recover 2,700 children since 2005.
Report: FBI's list of children recovered, pimps arrested
Hosko said the children, generally recruited from foster care or
group homes, were being offered up on Internet sites, at truck stops,
casinos and street corners.
In addition to at least one parent,
the alleged pimps included individuals acting alone and some with
affiliations to organized crime. In many cases, Hosko said, the children
"don't see any avenues of escape'' from their handlers.
Ryan, president and chief executive officer of the National Center for
Missing and Exploited Children, called the criminal activity "an
escalating threat against America's children.''
Ryan said the law enforcement action "is saving lives.''
The largest number of children -- 12 -- were recovered in San Francisco. And the most alleged pimps --18 -- were arrested in Detroit.
The FBI reports three children were recovered in the Tampa area.
Criminal charges are expected to be brought both in the state and
federal courts and will involve a variety of offenses, including human
trafficking and coercion.
"Child prostitution remains a persistent threat to children across
America," Hosko said. "This operation serves as a reminder that these
abhorrent crimes can happen anywhere and that the FBI remains committed
to stopping this cycle of victimization and holding the criminals who
profit from this exploitation accountable."