Today, the FBI, the Department of Justice, and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children joined together to mark the five-year anniversary of the “Innocence Lost” initiative and to announce recent enforcement actions taken against criminals engaged in the domestic trafficking of children for prostitution. To date, Innocence Lost investigations have led to the conviction of 308 individuals on a combination of state and federal charges. More importantly, our efforts have led to the recovery of 433 child victims.
Just this past week, the FBI joined our law enforcement partners in a five-day national enforcement action. This operation, known as “Operation Cross Country,” included takedown operations in 16 cities across the country and led to the recovery of 21 children.
“Our top priority in these cases has always been to identify child victims and move swiftly to remove them from these dangerous environments,” said FBI Director Robert S. Mueller, III. “ In the five years since the establishment of the Innocence Lost initiative, the FBI and state and local law enforcement have rescued more than 400 child victims. Unfortunately though, our workload will not slow down after today, as there will be more victims and more criminals who profit by selling our children. We must continue to pursue those who exploit our nation's children.”
In the spring of 2003, the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division, in partnership with the Child Exploitation-Obscenity Section (CEOS) of the Department of Justice and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), formed the Innocence Lost National Initiative designed to address the growing problem of children forced into prostitution. This program brings state and federal law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, and social service providers from around the country to NCMEC, where the groups are trained together. In addition, CEOS has reinforced the training by assigning prosecutors to help bring cases in those cities plagued by child prostitution. To date, the 24 Innocence Lost task forces and working groups have recovered 433 children. The investigations and subsequent convictions have resulted in lengthy sentences, including multiple 25-years to life sentences, and the seizure of over $3 million dollars in assets.
“Child trafficking for the purposes of prostitution is organized criminal activity using kids as commodities for sale or trade,” said Ernie Allen, President and CEO of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. “These kids are victims. They lack the ability to walk away. This is 21st Century slavery. We are proud to have worked hand-in-hand with the FBI and Justice Department in a partnership that is unprecedented, historic, and working.”
The FBI would like to thank our partners who participated in Operation Cross Country and ongoing enforcement efforts, specifically the Toledo Police Department, Michigan State Police, Wayne County Sheriff's Office, Madison Heights Police Department, Montgomery County Police Department, Oakland Police Department, California Department of Justice, Los Angeles Police Department, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, Reno Police Department, Sparks Police Department, Washoe County Sheriff's Office, The University of Nevada at Reno School Police, Houston Police Department, Harris County Sheriff's Office, Dallas Police Department, Phoenix Police Department, Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, Atlanta Police Department, Metropolitan Police Department of Washington, D.C., Alexandria Police Department, Fairfax County Police Department, Massachusetts State Police, Boston Police Department, Braintree Police Department, Suffolk County Sheriff's Office, Miami Beach Police Department, Miami-Dade Police Department, Hallandale Beach Police Department, Bal Harbour Police Department, Miramar Police Department, the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Miami Police Department, and the Sacramento Police Department.
All of the charges announced today are merely accusations and all defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.