Child Exploitation Task Forces Conduct Multi-Night Operation in Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, and Riverside Counties as Part of Operation Cross Country VII
Two Minors Rescued and Multiple Arrests Made
|FBI Los Angeles July 29, 2013|
The FBI and multiple law enforcement agencies in Riverside, San Bernardino, Orange, and Los Angeles Counties conducted proactive investigations in various cities over the weekend focusing on the identification and recovery of victims of sexual trafficking, announced Bill L. Lewis, the Assistant Director of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. ADIC Lewis made the announcement on behalf of multiple departments that participated in the operation.
The law enforcement activity was part of a national initiative known as Operation Cross Country VII took place in 76 cities in the United States and led to the rescue of over 100 minors. Over 150 suspects were arrested for allegedly transporting minors for the purposes of prostitution, among other violations. More than 230 agencies participated in Operation Cross Country VII.
In the four counties that fall within the jurisdiction of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, two minors, ages 15 and 16, were rescued, and four pimps were arrested. As part of these efforts, investigators also partner with experts in the field of human trafficking to seek evidence of sex trafficking where adults, as well as minors, are being victimized.
“The FBI is proud to partner with local law enforcement agencies whose personnel encounter the victimization of minors through prostitution in their cities on a routine basis,” said Bill L. Lewis, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “The FBI is committed to the identification and rescue of minor victims and to hold accountable through either state or federal prosecution those who exploit children for financial gain.”
To date, the FBI and its task force partners have recovered more than 2,700 children from the streets across the United States. Nationally, investigations and the subsequent 1,350 convictions have resulted in lengthy sentences, including 10 life terms, as well as the seizure of more than $3.1 million in assets.
Task force operations usually begin as local enforcement actions that target truck stops, casinos, street “tracks,” and websites that advertise dating or escort services, based on intelligence gathered by officers working in their respective jurisdictions. Initial arrests are often violations of local and state laws relating to prostitution or solicitation. Information gleaned from those arrested frequently uncovers organized efforts to prostitute women and children across many states. FBI agents further develop this evidence in partnership with U.S. Attorney’s Offices and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section so that prosecutors can help bring federal charges in those cities where child prostitution occurs.
The following is a recent local example (Orange County) of successful prosecution at the federal level: On June 26, 2013, Eric Wells was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for transporting minors for the purposes of prostitution (18 USC 2423(a). Wells’ co-defendant, Tonisha Moore, was sentenced on July 9, 2013, to 70 months in federal prison and eight years’ supervised release for transporting minors for the purposes of prostitution. The couple recruited minor victims, ages 14 and 17, in Las Vegas in March/April 2012 and transported them to Phoenix, Arizona and Orange County, California, for the purposes of prostitution. Wells and Moore were indicted in May 2012 and both pled guilty in May/June 2012.
The FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office works throughout the year with a variety of law enforcement partners in multiple cities across the seven-county area comprising the Central District of California. Local departments participating in Operation Cross Country VII are listed below:
- Ontario Police Department
- Pomona Police Department
- Riverside Police Department
- Hemet Police Department
- Los Angeles Police Department (Hollywood & 77th)
- Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (Compton)
- Inglewood Police Department
- Anaheim Police Department
- U.S. Homeland Security Investigations; Immigration Customs Enforcement
- Department of Child and Family Services
- Los Angeles County Probation
- Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office
- Orange County District Attorney’s Office
- Riverside District Attorney’s Office
- San Bernardino District Attorney’s Office
The task forces will present cases to the District Attorneys in each county where arrests were made and will consult with the United States Attorney’s Office to determine where federal charges are possible.
The FBI’s National Innocence Lost Initiative was established in 2003 to address criminal enterprises involved in the domestic sex trafficking of children. The program combines the resources of state and federal law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, social service providers, and non-governmental organizations; and training is provided with the assistance of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Additional information on Operation Cross Country VII: