Suspects nabbed in prostitution sting appear in Boardman court - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Suspects nabbed in prostitution sting appear in Boardman court

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A nationwide sweep targeting commercial child sex trafficking resulted in the arrest of twelve people on prostitution and other charges in the Valley.

Although Operation Cross Country VIII did not result in the recovery of any children here in the valley last week, a sting conducted by the FBI did result in the arrest of one man and eleven women ranging in age from 19 to 36, who were scheduled to appear in Boardman court on Tuesday.

Undercover FBI agents say they contacted women who placed classified ads online, and made arrangements to meet in local motels. Investigators say the women were arrested after allegedly offering sex in exchange for money.

The suspects that pleaded guilty were fined $250 and placed on probation. Trial dates were set for the others.

Boardman Township Administrator Jason Loree said the problem has spread to the suburbs because of the concentration of new hotels.

"Locally, Austintown had some issues last year where they were trying to break this type of stuff up. And unfortunately, we have the hotels here, that's now going to be part of the daily protocol, making sure we are checking and doing enforcement," said Loree.

Loree is hopeful that this combined effort with the FBI and Crimes Task Force will send a strong message that prostitution will not be tolerated in Boardman.

The operation conducted Sunday, June 15 through Friday, June 20, included enforcement actions in cities throughout the greater Cleveland and Northern Ohio area and led to the recovery of 16 children who were being victimized through prostitution. Additionally, 12 pimps were arrested on state and federal charges.

Operation Cross Country is part of the Innocence Lost National Initiative that was established in 2003 by the FBI's Criminal Investigative Division, in partnership with the Department of Justice and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, to address the growing problem of child prostitution.

To date, the FBI and its task force partners have recovered more than 3,400 children from being exploited. The investigations and subsequent 1,450 convictions have resulted in lengthy sentences, including 14 life terms. In the past week alone, law enforcement recovered four juveniles in Toledo, one in Elyria and 11 in Cleveland. All of these children were sold as prostitutes. The Cleveland office ranked second in the nation with the number of children recovered in this operation. The Denver Office of the FBI recovered 18 children.

Task force 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.

Initial arrests are often violations of local and state laws relating to prostitution or solicitation. Information gleaned from those arrested frequently uncovers organized efforts to prostitute women and children across many states.

FBI agents further developed this evidence in partnership with the U.S. Attorney's Offices and the U.S. Department of Justice's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section so that prosecutors can help bring federal charges in those cities where child prostitution occurs.

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