A sex trafficking ring which forced juveniles as young as 13 to work as prostitutes for the Super Bowl has been shut down by law enforcement.
The FBI said sixteen persons under the age of 19 were rescued in the New York City in the weeks leading up to the game. Some of the children found were reported missing by their families; some were from other countries. One of them, a 17-year-old girl, had been reportedly living with a pimp for the past two years, said Michael Osborn, chief of the Violent Crimes Against Children unit at the FBI.
Victims were forced to come to the region to cater to attendees at the Super Bowl prior to Sunday's game:
The operation came after months of investigative work to find sex trafficking rings and training for legions of law enforcement personnel, hospitality workers, airport employees and others on identifying the signs of sex trafficking. The New Jersey Attorney General's office set up a Super Bowl sex trafficking task force that included partners such as the FBI shortly after it was announced that the game would be held in New Jersey.
The agency said this round of arrests was the largest bust of its kind since June, when 105 children were rescued and 152 pimps were arrested in a similar operation.
The investigation also uncovered more crimes:
More than 50 adult women who were forced to work as prostitutes were also rescued. More than 45 pimps were arrested and numerous guns seized, according to investigators.
This comes on the heels of last week's news that a Florida woman allegedly tried to prostitute her 15-year-old daughter to Super Bowl attendees.
Events like the Super Bowl are a windfall for sex traffickers. While there's been some discussion from authorities and public figures before, it's hard to find statistics that clearly identify the problem. This year, law enforcement officials were actively seeking out sex traffickers, thanks to push back from advocacy groups.
"We're constantly evaluating intelligence to determine where the biggest threats are," Osborn said. "Large sporting events draw a lot of people into a compressed area with a lot of disposable income and as part of that you attract a certain criminal element."
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