FBI Announces Results of Nationwide Human Trafficking Operation
Officials from the FBI announced that 149 underage trafficking victims were recovered and 153 pimps arrested in a nationwide human trafficking operation conducted throughout the United States last week. The initiative, dubbed Operation Cross Country IX, is a national effort spearheaded by the FBI and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), along with state and local law enforcement partners across the country. Now in its ninth year, the operation targets criminal enterprises responsible for the commercial sex trafficking of children.
The youngest victim in this year’s operation was 12 years old. Of the 149 victims recovered, three of those minors were transgender, and three were males. During the operation, 90 victim specialists provided on-scene direct services to victims of sex trafficking, while 105 child victims received on-site direct services that included crisis intervention and resources for basic needs like medical, food, clothing, and shelter. Due to the size of the operation, FBI victim specialists coordinated with local law enforcement victim advocates and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who provided additional support to the victims.
As part of the takedown, members of the FBI’s Rochester Child Exploitation Task Force (CETF) and the Gates Police Department recovered two underage victims and arrested two pimps. The CETF arrested Brandon McNeal, 23, of Rochester, New York, on charges of sex trafficking a minor through Backpage.com. The pimp arrested by the Gates Police Department will be charged locally with promoting prostitution. The underage victims are receiving local services.
“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, with 53 FBI field offices and 73 Child Exploitation Task Forces, which include federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, taking part in the operation in 135 cities across America, including (local markets). Nationwide, more than 500 law enforcement officials, including investigators and officers from federal, state and local law enforcement organizations, 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.
“For the members of the FBI’s Child Exploitation Task Force, the rescue of a child victim is the ultimate goal,” said SAC Adam S. Cohen, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Buffalo Division. “Task Force agents and investigators spend every moment focused on protecting children from abuse and exploitation—there cannot be more important or heartening work.”
The Child Exploitation Task Forces (CETF) in Buffalo and Rochester provide a rapid and effective investigative response to reported federal crimes involving the victimization of children. The task forces strive to reduce the vulnerability of children to acts of sexual exploitation and abuse, and strengthen the capabilities of federal, state, and local law enforcement through training programs and investigative assistance.
- The Buffalo CETF partner agencies include the Buffalo Police Department, Cheektowaga Police Department, and Niagara County Sheriff’s Office. The Lancaster Police Department also assisted with Operation Cross Country IX.
- The Rochester CETF partner agencies include the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, the Rochester Police Department, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations. The Greece Police Department and Gates Police Department also assisted with Operation Cross Country IX.
“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 NCMEC. “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.”
Operation Cross Country is part of the FBI’s Innocence Lost national initiative, which began in 2003. Since the program’s inception, more than 4,800 children have been recovered from underage prostitution and prosecutors have obtained more than 2,000 convictions, including at least 15 that have resulted in life sentences. For additional information on Operation Cross Country IX, and the Innocence Lost initiative, please visit www.fbi.gov.
Related story and raw footage:
- Operation Cross Country: Recovering Victims of Child Sex Trafficking