Jan 11, 2023
At least 121 missing children and child trafficking victims were rescued by law enforcement officials across the country in a nationwide sting operation, the FBI announced earlier this week.
“Operation Cross Country,” was a coordinated initiative among the FBI, other federal agencies, state and local police, and social services agencies across the nation to find and assist victims of human trafficking, particularly child victims, the agency indicated in a press release. The operation successfully located more than 200 victims of human trafficking and related crimes during the first two weeks of August, The Hill reported.
“The initiative really just takes a concentrated period of time where we’re just focused on the problem of child sex trafficking,” FBI Section Chief Jose Perez, who oversees violent crime investigations, said. “What we do is we sit down with our local partners and our task forces and identify certain areas where we know sex trafficking is prevalent, and we’ll dedicate resources and efforts to identify and remove victims from those areas.”
In its press release, the FBI noted that while Operation Cross Country was an opportunity to highlight the ongoing scourge of human trafficking in the U.S., the agency and its partners “work to investigate and stop trafficking every day.”
The FBI confirmed that its Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Forces stationed across the country worked to locate the victims. Operation Cross Country involved:
The goal of initiatives such as Operation Cross Country is to gather intelligence, build criminal cases against traffickers, and offer victims assistance, the FBI said. The active total number of human trafficking victims located by authorities this year as part of the nationwide initiative is estimated to be 391.
The FBI also confirmed that a local operation in Atlanta helped locate 19 missing children and resulted in the arrest of four traffickers. A similar operation in Chattanooga, Tennessee, helped locate sex offenders who had failed to register, tracked predators who approached children online, and looked for a runaway teenager at high risk for being trafficked.
The result of the Tennessee operation included:
Operation Cross Country was an “expanded” initiative aimed at investigating sex offenders who may be eligible for federal charges as well as perpetrators trying to connect with children online in an effort to sexually abuse them, the FBI said.
“With the advent of social media, access to mobile devices and technology … they’re out there in the neighborhoods not being monitored,” Sam, a special agent who leads the Chattanooga office’s crimes against children investigations, said. “And we don’t know if they’re going to have access to these communication devices to continue to exploit children online or have inappropriate physical contact with children.”
According to data provided by the Human Trafficking Institute, more than half of all 2021 trafficking victims in the U.S. were minors. FBI Director Christopher Wray called sex trafficking “among the most heinous crimes” the agency encounters.
“Unfortunately, such crimes – against both adults and children – are far more common than most people realize,” Wray said. “As we did in this operation, the FBI and our partners will continue to find and arrest traffickers, identify and help victims, and raise awareness of the exploitation [of] our most vulnerable populations.”
Attorney General Merrick Garland also noted the high priority placed on eradicating human trafficking at the national level.
“The Justice Department is committed to doing everything in our power to combat the insidious crimes of human trafficking that devastate survivors and their families,” Garland said.
Last month, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act of 2022. The expanded legislation includes the following provisions:
The law also mandates that foreign governments must be alerted when registered sex offenders travel abroad.
The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 allows survivors to file civil claims against entities that benefit from human trafficking enterprises. The law was initially signed by President Clinton and reauthorized by presidents Bush, Obama, and Trump.
Numerous sex trafficking prosecutions have recently made headlines, including:
Keith Raniere and the Nxivm Cult: In 2021, Keith Raniere, founder of the company known as Nxivm (pronounced Nexium), was sentenced to 120 years in prison after being convicted on numerous federal charges (including sex trafficking, sexual exploitation of a child, child pornography, and human trafficking). The notorious cult, featured in a number of recent documentaries, reportedly involved Raniere branding women as “slaves” with his initials.
GirlsDoPorn.com Website: In June 2021, adult film performer and producer Ruben Andre Garcia was convicted on federal conspiracy sex trafficking charges and sentenced to 20 years in prison. Garcia reportedly conspired with the owners of the adult websites GirlsDoPorn.com and GirlsDoToys.com to recruit young women to appear in sex videos for adult websites using force, fraud, and coercion.
American Hotel Chains Accused of Sex Trafficking: In December 2019, 12 major hotel chains – including Hilton, Intercontinental, and Best Western – were accused of profiting from sex trafficking. Women and children were allegedly held captive, abused, and sold for sex in countless guest rooms across the United States. The litigation against the hotel chains marked the first time that the hotel industry has faced legal action as a collective group.
For over 25 years, Dordulian Law Group (DLG) has been helping survivors of sexual assault and abuse obtain the justice they deserve through civil lawsuits. Survivors may file claims in pursuit of various financial damages, such as:
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