CHICAGO — A nationwide human trafficking sting has freed three children from the sex trade while arresting two area pimps, the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced Wednesday.
Agents with the FBI, as well as numerous other law enforcement agencies, said they uncovered 149 underage victims of human trafficking nationwide as well as arrested 153 pimps in the sting called "Operation Cross Country IX."
There are no details on the children uncovered from the Chicago area, but the FBI did say the youngest victim they found was 12 years old. Of the 149 trafficking victims, three are transgender and three are male, the FBI said in a statement.
The victims were directed to social services experts on hand during the raids, who then helped the victims with medical, housing and other needs, the FBI said.
"Human trafficking is a monstrous and devastating crime that steals lives and degrades our nation," Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement. "The Department of Justice will continue to aggressively and persistently fight this heinous crime, and to hold its perpetrators accountable to the fullest extent of the law."
This year's operation was the largest in the nine-year history of "operation cross country" initiative, the FBI said. The investigation covered 135 cities across America and enlisted the help of over 500 law enforcement officials.
Locally, the Cook County Sheriff's Department, Cook County State's Attorney's Office, the Lake County Sheriff's Department, Alsip Police Department, Bedford Park Police Department, Grayslake Police Department and the Chicago Police Department were involved in the operation, according to the FBI.
"Human trafficking is a horrific crime that we remain committed to addressing in Northern Illinois," John A. Brown, head of the FBI's Chicago office, said in a statement. "Any success on the part of the FBI has been due to the tremendous collaboration and support we receive from many civilian agencies as well as our local, state and federal law enforcement partners."
The FBI has recovered 4,800 children since the anti-human trafficking operation began in 2003, as well as led to more than 2,000 convictions, including at least 15 life sentences, the FBI said.
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