FBI child sex trafficking sting rescues 105 children; 150 pimps arrested in 'Operation Cross Country VII' raid
The FBI has rescued 105 teenagers from child sex trafficking in the nation's biggest prostitution sting.
The agency rescued girls as young as 9 years old in a sting which covered over 70 cities. The FBI raided and arrested 150 'pimps', who exploited the women and children into sex trafficking.
According to the FBI, 60 percent of the children rescued in the operation were from foster care or group homes when they ran away and lured into a life of sex trafficking.
Ronald Hosko, assistant director of FBI's criminal investigative division, said "With no way to survive on their own they are lured into a life of being trafficked for sex." He said the girls are enticed by offers of making money and get trapped into a cycle that involves drugs and physical abuse.
"They are tied to the pimp," he said.
One victim told officials that she was involved with prostitution at the age of 11, according to CNN.
Another victim named Alex says she turned to prostitution when she had no other option to feed and clothe herself. She told interviewers, "At first it was terrifying, and then you just kind of become numb to it. You put on a whole different attitude - like a different person. It wasn't me. I know that. Nothing about it was me."
"I was very lucky to be able to walk away," Alex said. "I never got hurt, so I'm really, really lucky. I'm one of the few that can say that." She added that without the help of the FBI, "I probably would have ended up dead."
FBI agents posed as men looking for sex to identify victims of sex trafficking. They also used a website called Backpage, which sells girls for sex.
FBI Acting Executive Assistant Director Kevin Perkins said: "Many times the children that are taken in in these types of criminal activities are children that are disaffected, they are from broken homes, they may be on the street themselves. They are really looking for a meal, they are looking for shelter, they are looking for someone to take care of them."
The raid was dubbed "Operation Cross Country VII" and involved 47 FBI divisions and over 3,900 local and national law enforcement officers and agents. The sting took place in 76 cities in a course of three days.
Operation Cross Country is a part of the Innocence Lost National Initiative, a joint program by the FBI, the Department of Justice and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which was created to fight child sex trafficking in the country.
The operation is the biggest against child sex trafficking in U.S. history.
Pope Francis used his Christmas blessing to call for an end to fighting in Syria and the Holy Land.
Pope Francis said on Saturday that Christmas had been "taken hostage" by dazzling materialism that puts God in the shadows and blinds many to the needs of the hungry, the migrants and the war weary.
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