FBI: Several pimps busted in East TN after largest ever child sex-trafficking sweep

(WVLT/CBS) -- A massive nationwide law enforcement sweep targeting child sex-trafficking resulted in the saving of 105 sexually exploited children and the arrest of more than 150 pimps and others, the FBI said Monday. Seven of the pimps arrested were in East Tennessee, but none of the children.

The coordinated action between multiple federal, state and local agencies was the largest such enforcement action to date, according to the FBI. Seventy-six cities took part, as well as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) as part of the Bureau's Innocence Lost National Initiative.

The raid was the seventh similar such action to date under the title "Operation Cross Country."

"Child prostitution remains a persistent threat to children across America," said Ron Hosko, assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Investigative Division, in a press release. "This operation serves as a reminder that these abhorrent crimes can happen anywhere and that the FBI remains committed to stopping this cycle of victimization and holding the criminals who profit from this exploitation accountable."

The FBI says that most children who are vulnerable to such exploitation have a "void in their lives," be it from family, poverty, and other circumstances. Too often, pimps and other abusive figures step in to fill it, leaving the victims thinking they have no other choice.

Since its creation in 2003, the Innocence Lost National Initiative has resulted in the identification and recovery of 2,700 children who have been sexually exploited--and substantial sentences of convicted pimps, including eight federal life sentences and terms of imprisonment frequently ranging from 15-50 years, according to the FBI.

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