SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Six suspected San Diego-area pimps were arrested in a nationwide crackdown on those who traffic in teenage prostitutes -- six of whom were taken into protective custody local, federal agents said Monday.
The latest iteration of "Operation Cross Country" included the freeing of 105 juveniles and the arrests of 159 suspected pimps, according to the FBI. The sweep included actions in 76 cities over the past weekend.
The crime of underage prostitution "remains a persistent threat to children across America," said Ron Hosko, assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Investigative Division.
"This operation serves as a reminder that these abhorrent crimes can happen anywhere, and the FBI remains committed to stopping this cycle of victimization and holding the criminals who profit from this exploitation accountable," Hosko said.
The project occurred under the auspices of the Innocence Lost National Initiative, which was established in 2003 by the FBI, in partnership with the Department of Justice and National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
"Operation Cross Country demonstrates just how many of America's children are being sold for sex every day, many on the Internet," NCMEC chief executive John Ryan said.
Through the multi-agency initiative, the FBI and its partners recovered more than 2,700 children from the streets to date, agents said. The resulting 1,350 convictions have led to lengthy sentences, including 10 life terms, and the seizure of more than $3.1 million in assets, according to the federal investigative agency.
The 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.
A long rap sheet related to prostitution or solicitation. Information gleaned from those suspects frequently uncovers organized efforts to prostitute women and children across many states, officials said.
FBI agents 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 bring federal charges in the cases.