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Photograph of Robert S. Mueller, III Robert S. Mueller, III
Federal Bureau of Investigation

Innocence Lost/Operation Cross Country Press Conference
Washington, D.C.

June 25, 2008

Good afternoon. The Innocence Lost National Initiative’s mission is to combat the growing problem of sexual exploitation of domestic children through prostitution.

The key to its success has been the strong coordination of some 24 task forces and working groups around the nation. While the number of FBI resources dedicated to this initiative is relatively small, we rely on the force multiplier effect to address this crime problem.

Together with our local, state, and federal partners, we gather and share intelligence…we train personnel to investigate and disrupt criminal enterprises and put behind bars those individuals who exploit children.

I want to thank our partners for their support, in particular the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division and Child Exploitation-Obscenity Section and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

I particularly want to thank Ernie Allen of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children for his dedication and leadership and for his long-time commitment—especially in the past five years—in support of Innocence Lost.

To date, the Innocence Lost investigations have led to the conviction of 308 individuals on a combination of state and federal charges, and over the past two years, approximately half of these convictions have been federal convictions. These convictions have resulted in lengthy sentences — in some cases up to life— and the seizure of over $3 million in assets.

But most 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 removal of 21 children from the cycle of victimization.

We together have no higher calling than to protect our children and to safeguard their innocence. Yet, the sex trafficking of children remains one of the most violent and unforgivable crimes in this country.

What is different as we stand here today is that we are faced with the increasing use of social network sites and other advances in technology to carry out these crimes and facilitate these criminal enterprises. Because of the accessibility and the anonymity the internet provides, Main Street is quickly becoming an online avenue.

And yet, despite these challenges, those who exploit children should know they will be brought to justice.

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