'Operation Cross Country IX' rescues 4 juvenile trafficking victims

'Operation Cross Country IX' rescues 4 juvenile trafficking victims

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - The FBI, along with other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies announced Wednesday that they rescued four underage victims of human trafficking in Cleveland as part of "Operation Cross Country IX".

Authorities also say one pimp was arrested as part of the takedown that took place last week.

Nationwide, 149 underage victims were recovered and 153 pimps were arrested. The youngest victim was 12-years-old.

"Human trafficking is a monstrous and devastating crime that steals lives and degrades our nation," said Attorney General Loretta Lynch. "As a result of the FBI's outstanding coordination and exemplary efforts alongside state and local partners during Operation Cross Country, more children will sleep safely tonight, and more wrongdoers will face the judgment of our criminal justice system. The Department of Justice will continue to aggressively and persistently fight this heinous crime and to hold its perpetrators accountable to the fullest extent of the law."

Operation Cross Country IX is the largest in the nine-year history of the initiative.

More than 500 law enforcement officials across the country conducted both "in-call" and "out-call" operations in hotels, casinos, truck stops, and in other areas known to be frequented by both prostitutes, sex traffickers, and their customers.

"Operation Cross Country highlights the dedicated work done year-round by our agents and numerous task force partners throughout northern Ohio," said Stephen Anthony, the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Cleveland Field Office. "This nationally coordinated campaign helps spread awareness about the sexual trafficking of minors and sends a message to those victims that help is available and a message to the perpetrators that they will be held accountable."

"We're proud to partner with the FBI and provide support to both law enforcement and victim specialists in the field as they work to locate and recover survivors of child sex trafficking," said Linda Krieg, Acting Chief Executive Officer of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. "The number of children recovered and pimps arrested in this year's operation highlights the importance of these efforts today and every day in protecting our children from exploitation."

Since its inception, Operation Cross Country has rescued more than 4,800 children from underage prostitution and prosecutors have obtained more than 2,000 convictions. At least 15 have resulted in life sentences.

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