WASHINGTON (AP) - The FBI has rescued more than 45 suspected
teenage prostitutes, some as young as 13, in a nationwide sweep to
remove kids from the illegal sex trade and punish their accused
Over a three-night initiative called Operation Cross Country,
federal agents working with local law enforcement also arrested
more than 50 alleged pimps, according to preliminary bureau data.
The teenage prostitutes found in the investigation ranged in age
from 13 to 17.
Meanwhile, in Memphis, Tenn., a man pleaded guilty Monday to
federal civil rights charges for sex trafficking in minors. Leonard
Fox faces at least 10 years in prison after admitting that he
arranged for underaged girls to engage in sex for money.
"To sexually prey upon young girls in this manner for financial
gain is particularly damaging to the victims and an affront to the
society in which we live," said Loretta King, acting head of the
Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.
Historically, federal authorities rarely play a role in
anti-prostitution crackdowns, but the FBI is becoming more involved
as it tries to rescue children caught up in the business.
"The goal is to recover kids. We consider them the child
victims of prostitution," said FBI Deputy Assistant Director
"Unfortunately, the vast majority of these kids are what they
term 'throwaway kids,' with no family support, no friends. They're
kids that nobody wants, they're loners. Many are runaways,"
Most of the children are put into the custody of local child
Agents in cities from Miami to Chicago to Anchorage, Alaska took
part in the operation.
Special Agent Melissa Morrow of the FBI's Washington office said
the operation has put them on the trail of a particular 16-year-old
prostitute they still haven't found.
Adult prostitutes arrested during the operation provided key
tips about the girl, the agent said.
"She is currently 16 and started when she was 13. Now she is
out there recruiting other juveniles as well," said Morrow, adding
that finding the girl is "at the top of our list."
The federal effort is also designed to hit pimps with much
tougher prison sentences than they would likely get in state
Government prosecutors look to bring racketeering charges or
conspiracy charges that can result in decades of jail time.
"Some of these networks of pimps and their organizations are
very sophisticated, they're interstate," said Roberts, requiring
wiretaps and undercover sting operations to bring charges.
The weekend's roundup marked the third such Operation Cross
Country, and is part of a broader federal program launched in 2003
to crack down on the sexual exploitation of children.
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