Human trafficking operations thwarted in three states – 82 arrested, 31 rescued including 4-year-old

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Human trafficking operations that were taking place within three states – California, Kansas, and Missouri – were recently thwarted by local and federal authorities in June. 

Between the human trafficking operations busted, reportedly over 40 victims were rescued and over 100 arrests were made across the operations. 

According to a press release from ICE, the human trafficking operations taking place in Kansas and Missouri resulted in 82 arrests and 31 victims rescued. 

The agency noted that the operation took place between June 17th and June 26th, where investigations were being conducted in Wichita, Kansas, Independence, Missouri and Kansas City, Missouri.

Of the 31 victims rescued during the operation, 14 of the victims were cited as being children – with the youngest of the victims being 4-years-old. 

According to the release from ICE, the operation was conducted by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), along with Wichita Police Department, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, Kansas Highway Patrol and numerous other state, local and federal agencies. 

The 82 suspects referenced in the press release “will be charged with crimes related to soliciting prostitution, commercial sex trafficking, sodomy, narcotics violations, felony assault on a police officer, sex offender registry violations and outstanding warrants.”

Earlier in June in California, the Fresno Police Department reportedly partnered with ICE and HSI to conduct what was described as “a multi-day operation to combat child exploitation and human trafficking in the Fresno area” according to a press release from ICE

The operation, dubbed as Operation Stolen Hearts, in Fresno reportedly kicked off on June 23rd, which ICE noted in their press release resulted in 10 women and girls being rescued and 21 suspects being arrested. 

Investigators reportedly took to the web as part of the operation, reportedly posing as underage girls and began chatting with adults who reached out to them and allegedly tried arranging illicit meetings. 

According to the press release from ICE, the 21 suspects arrested are facing charges ranging from “contacting a minor with intent to commit a sexual offense, aiding prostitution, arranging a meeting with a minor for lewd purposes and solicitation of acts of prostitution.”

Reportedly, two of the suspect arrested were also said to have been in possession of illegal firearms. 

Special Agent in Charge Tatum King, who oversees HSI operations in Northern California, gave the following statement regarding the success of Operation Stolen Hearts: 

“HSI is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to safeguard our local communities.”

“By working together, we will continue to identify these dangerous offenders and bring them to justice. Our combined efforts are vital to protecting young people from these heinous individuals.”

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Back in February, we at Law Enforcement Today shared a report about another human trafficking operation that was busted in Missouri thanks to the investigative work employed by state, local and federal authorities. 

Here’s that previous report. 

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SAINT JOSEPH, MO –  A successful human trafficking operation conducted by numerous law enforcement agencies in Missouri resulted in eight victims being rescued.

Six of them are adults and two are young children.

Officials reported having arrested three suspects but have not yet released the identities of the arrestees or any recovered victims.

The St. Joseph Police Department, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt and the Missouri State Highway Patrol recently shared details on the success of a multi-agency human trafficking operation that took place on February 6th at two separate truck stop locations in St. Joseph.

According to AG Schmitt’s office, these two locations where the operation was conducted were at a Bucky’s Travel Plaza and Love’s Travel Stop.

Said human trafficking operation was reportedly organized by the St. Joseph Police Department, the Buchanan County Sheriff’s Office, the Missouri State Highway Patrol and Missouri Attorney General’s Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force.

Six adult victims, only identified as five females and one male, were reportedly recovered between the two truck stop locations during the operation. Also, two children, described as a two-year-old and an infant, were also recovered.

There were reportedly 16 different agencies that assisted in the operation altogether, with AG Schmitt attributing the success of this operation due to the amazing collaboration between all of these agencies involved:

“This operation was successful because of cooperation between my Office, the St. Joseph Police Department, the state highway patrol, the Buchanan County Sheriff’s Office, and 13 other agencies and departments.”

“This unprecedented success should send clear a message to traffickers: you are not welcome in Missouri, and you can’t hide any longer.”

While only three arrests were reported as having taken place, officials say that there are currently additional arrests pending that are linked to the investigation/operation.  

Due to the active nature of this investigation, officials were unable to disclose any additional details related to the operation.

Please follow Law Enforcement Today as we gather further updates on this case as they become available.

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There has recently been a number of operations conducted throughout the United States related to rescuing victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. 

One of the more recent endeavors transpired in Los Angeles, California, where reportedly 33 missing or exploited children were recovered during an operation dubbed as “Operation Lost Angles” in January. 

We at Law Enforcement Today recently reported on the matter after officials announced the success of the operation. 

Here’s that previous report. 

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LOS ANGELES, CA – According to a statement released by the FBI on January 22nd, 2021, a total of 33 missing children – eight of whom were reportedly actively being sexually exploited at the time of their rescue – we’re recovered in Southern California following a joint venture that involved over two dozen law enforcement agencies and non-governmental partners.

In January, which ironically is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, the FBI teamed up with the LAPD and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (among other agencies) in an effort to locate missing and exploited children.

The operation that successfully recovered these 33 children was reportedly nicknamed “Operation Lost Angels”.

While the FBI did share the news of the successes associated with the operation, not too many details of the operation itself – as in the inner workings, specified agendas of various entities and so forth – have been shared by the FBI.

At least one arrest was enacted via this operation, with an individual facing state level charges under suspicions of human trafficking. Also, this joint venture has reportedly resulted in the opening of numerous investigations related to human trafficking and the ilk.

Apparently two of the victims were recovered “multiple times” in this operation – as they were known as being on the “track”, which is a term often associated with a victim who is being hosted at a place notorious for commercial sex trafficking.

FBI Los Angeles Public Affairs Specialist Laura Eimiller noted in the press release that, unfortunately, victims returning to their abusers is a viscous cycle associated with child sex trafficking:

“It is not uncommon for victims who are rescued to return to commercial sex trafficking either voluntarily or by force, fraud, or coercion.”

“This harmful cycle highlights the challenges victims face and those faced by law enforcement when attempting to keep victims from returning to an abusive situation. Victims may not self-identify as being trafficked or may not even realize they’re being trafficked.”

Some of the other victims that were recovered in this operation are apparently facing charges with respect to various probation violations, robbery, and other misdemeanors – but it’s unclear whether any of these minor victims are going to have their feet held to the proverbial fire.

Once again, the details on these instances are, frankly, limited.

One of the children rescued was apparently the victim of a non-custodial parent kidnapping, from what the FBI detailed on this operation.

Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, Kristi K. Johnson, stated the following about the success of the operation:

“The FBI considers human trafficking modern day slavery and the minors engaged in commercial sex trafficking are considered victims.”

“While this operation surged resources over a limited period of time with great success, the FBI and our partners investigate child sex trafficking every day of the year and around the clock.”

LAPD Chief Michael Moore also commented on the continued endeavors law enforcement faces when trying to combat human trafficking in all forms:

“Human trafficking is a pervasive and insidious crime that threatens the safety of our young people, who are the future of our communities.”

“We can only begin to take back the future of our youth with the strong partnerships forged between outstanding service providers and law enforcement.”

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