SAN DIEGO, CA – The Federal Bureau of Investigation, along with representatives from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and several international law enforcement partners, today announced that, domestically, 82 minors were rescued and 239 traffickers and their associates were arrested as part of Operation Cross Country X, an international effort focusing on underage human trafficking that ran from October 13 to 16, 2016.
FBI Director James Comey and NCMEC Director John Clark announced the results of Operation Cross Country X today at the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) convention in San Diego, California.
This is the 10th iteration of FBI-led initiative, which took place across the United States and, for the first time, also in several countries around the world. Law enforcement partners from Cambodia, Canada, the Philippines, and Thailand had operations in their respective countries. In Canada, as part of a corresponding effort called Northern Spotlight, authorities recovered 16 children, while in Cambodia, Thailand, and the Philippines, authorities recovered 25 children, including a 2-year-old girl.
“Operation Cross Country aims to shine a spotlight into the darkest corners of our society that seeks to prey on the most vulnerable of our population,” said FBI Director Comey. “As part of this effort, we are not only looking to root out those who engage in the trafficking of minors, but through our Office for Victim Assistance, we offer a lifeline to minors to help them escape from a virtual prison no person ever deserves.”
Operations took place in a number of locations, including hotels, truck stops, and street corners. Minors recovered during an arrest are engaged with state protective services and victim assistance. Depending on the level of need, a law enforcement officer and, if available, an FBI victim specialist will accompany the survivor to obtain these services.
“Child sex trafficking is a global problem and we must throw every resource we can at combating it,” said NCMEC Director John Clark. “All of us at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children are proud to work side by side with the FBI and their law enforcement partners as we work tirelessly every day to find and rescue child victims and while ensuring that those responsible for this horrible crime are held accountable.”
Operation Cross Country X is the largest ever in the history of the initiative, with 55 FBI field FBI field offices and 74 Child Exploitation Task Forces representing more than 400 law enforcement organizations taking part in the operation. In addition, several dozen operations across Canada, and approximately 10 operations took place in six cities across Cambodia, Thailand, and the Philippines.
“The IACP is proud of the work of the FBI and the many agencies that have committed resources to Operation Cross Country,” said IACP 1st Vice President Chief Donald W. De Lucca, Doral, Florida Police Department. “Child sex trafficking involves a number of complex crimes requiring law enforcement to collaborate with multiple law enforcement agencies and community partners to identify and respond to child victims, while holding accountable those who are responsible for their exploitation. We are committed to tackling this crime together because no one single agency, no single department, no single squad can attack this problem alone. It is too large, it is too prevalent, and it is too important.”
Operation Cross Country X is part of the FBI’s Innocence Lost Initiative, which began in 2003 and has yielded more than 6,000 child identifications and locations. For additional information on Operation Cross Country X and the Innocence Lost initiative, please visit fbi.gov.
Examples of stories from various cities that took part in Operation Cross Country X:
Through a website advertisement, an undercover agent went to a home where two children, aged 16 and 17, were recovered. The girls indicated they were sisters and were being pimped out by their mother. The girls also informed authorities that their mother was allegedly renting out the girls’ brother’s room to a man who was a registered sex offender.
Authorities arrested two adults (prostitute and pimp) after pursing a lead that appeared to offer the services of juveniles. While there were no juveniles present, the two arrested both had active warrants related to first-degree murder, human trafficking of a child, procuring a minor for prostitution, racketeering, and possession and transmission of child pornography. The adult prostitute and pimp were subjects out of Orlando. They, along with two other individuals, are alleged to have trafficked two juvenile females (14 and 15 years old), forcing them into prostitution and providing them with drugs. The 14-year-old was later found dead of an overdose.
Federal and local law enforcement recovered a 17-year-old girl who had been reported from her placement by the state. The girl, who was recovered as part of Cross Country IX last year, was found after investigators saw an ad with her real photo on a website advertising sexual services. An undercover investigator made arrangements to meet the girl and recovered her when she arrived at the hotel. During an interview with investigators, she indicated another juvenile female was located in a vehicle waiting outside. A surveillance team located the second juvenile (also 17 years old) in a vehicle engaged in illicit acts with a male. Both girls admitted to being trafficked by the same female suspect. The two girls lived at home with one of their mothers and the female suspect.
The TICAC, a task force composed of the Royal Thai Police and the Police and the Department of Special Investigation, arrested an American in Thailand. The registered sex offender is alleged to have coerced five juvenile Filipino females, ages 14 to 16, to take illicit photos of themselves and send them to him via the Internet. TICAC will continue the investigation, as there may be more victims who have had contact with the American.
During operations in the Philippines, local law enforcement recovered two boys, ages five and 11, and one girl from a location being used to house a website-based service. The girl was 2 years old. Authorities arrested five adults who ran a web-streaming service for individuals who would pay for access to livestreaming sexual abuse, as well as access to the children for purpose of illegal sexual acts. The investigation continues to identify additional suspects.