FBI: 17 Children Rescued, 4 Pimps Caught in Colorado and Wyoming
A nationwide law enforcement effort focused on underage human trafficking has led to the rescue of scores of minors as well as the arrest of over 100 traffickers across the country, including Wyoming and Colorado.
In total, the 11th iteration of Operation Cross Country resulted in the recovery of 84 minors and the arrest of 120 traffickers across the country. Seventeen of those children were recovered in 33 law enforcement operations across Colorado and Wyoming from OCt. 12-15.
Four alleged pimps were arrested on suspicion of commercially exploiting children or adults in the two states.
The FBI says another 18 predators -- who were seeking to purchase sex with children -- were arrested. Authorities also contacted 47 adults who were engaged in commercial sex as potential victims, offering to help them get out of the sex trade.
In Casper, two women were arrested on prostitution and drug possession charges, while five men were arrested for soliciting prostitution.
This year's Operation Cross Country took place in 55 FBI field offices and involved 78 state and local task forces, involving hundreds of law enforcement officers nationwide. The operation also featured international coordination with Canada, the United Kingdom, Thailand, Cambodia and the Philippines.
"We at the FBI have no greater mission than to protect our nation's children from harm. Unfortunately, the number of traffickers arrested -- and the number of children recovered -- reinforces why we need to continue to do this important," FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement.
"This operation isn't just about taking traffickers off the street. It's about making sure we offer help and a way out to these young victims who find themselves caught in a vicious cycle of abuse," Wray added.
The operation saw FBI agents and task force officers working together to set up stings in hotels, casinos and truck stops, as well as on street corners and websites.
The youngest victim recovered during this year's operation was three months old. The average age of victims recovered was 15 years old.
"Child sex trafficking is happening in every community across America, and at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, we're working to combat this problem every day," NCMEC President and CEO John Clark said in a statement. "We're proud to work with the FBI on Operation Cross Country to help find and recover child victims. We hope OCC generates more awareness about this crisis impacting our nation's children."
In its statement, the FBI highlights two success stories from cities that took part in the operation:
- On Oct. 13, FBI Denver recovered two young girls -- a three-month-old and a five-year-old. The subject, who was a friend of the children's family and ultimately arrested, offered an undercover officer access to the two children for sexual purposes in exchange for $600. The FBI is working with Child Protective Services to conduct a forensic interview and secure safe placement of the children.
- The same day, a 16-year-old girl was recovered by FBI El Paso after an undercover agent called an online advertisement for entertainment. Shortly thereafter, the agent met with a 21-year-old woman, who offered a fee of $200 to exchange in sexual intercourse with her and the 16-year-old. Further investigation revealed that a second adult female drove the minor and the 21-year-old to the location of the undercover officer. Both women were arrested on federal charges.
Operation Cross Country XI is part of the FBI's Innocence Lost National Initiative which began in 2003 and has yielded more than 6,500 child identifications and locations.