Inside a Prostitution Sting

FBI agents partner with local police in Virginia in an effort to rescue underage victims of prostitution as part of Operation Cross Country II, a three-day nationwide sweep.

Video Transcript

Speakers include: narrator, Thomas Nunemaker, Chief, FBI Violent Crimes Section; Supervisory Special Agent Melissa Morrow, Washington Field Office Child Exploitation Squad; and Ernie Allen, CEO, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Narrator: In a hotel suite in Northern Virginia, the FBI and local police have set up a sting.

They’re not looking for crooked politicians or drug pushers. They’re looking for juveniles caught up in a web of prostitution—and the pimps who control them.

Thomas Nunemaker: “We find, as a target base, the average age that they’re preying on is like 12 to 16 years old, although in our investigations we’ve found victims as young as nine years old.”

Narrator: The sting was part of a three-day operation—dubbed Operation Cross Country II—that recovered 49 kids in 29 cities as part of our ongoing Innocence Lost National Initiative.

This particular rescue operation began on the Internet. An agent surfs the web looking for young-looking prostitutes advertising their services. He makes contact, and agrees to meet in Room 403.

Next door, film cameras are secretly rolling.

Melissa Morrow: “When they arrive and the police, undercover, elicit certain statements, that individual is detained and we then proceed with debriefing and try to identify whether or not the individual is a juvenile.”

Narrator: In this sting, no young girls are rescued—but five adult prostitutes and one pimp are arrested.

And the resulting intelligence from those arrests may provide clues that might lead to juvenile victims of sex trafficking, who have been called throw-away kids—teens and even pre-teens who are essentially hiding in plain sight.

Thomas Nunemaker: “People ask us quite often, where does it occur? It occurs in the streets. It’s what we refer to as street tracks. It occurs at truck stops. It occurs at major events. It occurs at casinos, night clubs, vacation spots. But with the use of the Internet, it can happen anywhere anytime.

Narrator: One of our key partners is the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which kept tabs of successes in its Virginia headquarters as the operation unfolded across the country.

With its help and the work of 29 multi-agency task forces nationwide, we’re unraveling how child prostitution networks are organized in the U.S. So far, 575 kids have been rescued.

You can help expose these networks. If you see or suspect underage children being sexually exploited, report it. Call your nearest FBI office or the National Center’s toll-free hotline at 1-800-THE-LOST.

Ernie Allen: Innocence Lost is identifying these organized criminals and bringing them to justice … I’d like to send a simple message to every American: “If you see it in your city, if you hear about it, if you suspect it, report it."

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