Local law enforcement say they have recovered 16 children who were forced into prosecution in northeast Ohio.
“Operation Cross Country VIII” ended Friday with the arrests of 12 “pimps,” the Cleveland office of the FBI announced Monday.
Eleven of the children “sold into prostitution” were found in Cleveland; four came from Toledo and one from Elyria.
The cases were investigated by the FBI and its local, state and federal law enforcement partners assigned to investigate commercial child sex trafficking.
“Targeting and harming America’s children through commercial sex trafficking is a heinous crime, with serious consequences,” said FBI Director James B. Comey in a statement. “Every child deserves to be safe and sound. Through targeted measures like Operation Cross Country, we can end the cycle of victimization.”
Operation Cross Country is part of the Innocence Lost National Initiative established in 2003 by the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division, in partnership with the Department of Justice and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
According to the FBI, more than 3,400 children have been recovered since 2003.
In addition, there have been 1,450 convictions resulting in prison sentences, including 14 life terms.
“Child sex traffickers create a living nightmare for their adolescent victims,” said Leslie R. Caldwell, Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice in a statement. “They use fear and force and treat children as commodities of sex to be sold again and again. This operation puts traffickers behind bars and rescues kids from their nightmare so they can start reclaiming their childhood.”
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