Tuesday, December 20, 2005

19 Arrested in Federal Crackdown on Child Prostitution Rings

Associated Press
The Washington Post
Saturday, December 17, 2005; Page A13

Prostitution rings from New York to Hawaii forced 30 children, some as young as 12, to have sex at truck stops, hotels and brothels, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales said yesterday in announcing a government crackdown.

Nineteen people have been arrested among 31 who have been indicted for sexual trafficking in children, taking minors across state lines for prostitution and other crimes, Gonzales said. "The abhorrent acts alleged in these charges include children being herded around the country as sex slaves . . . and beaten at the hands of pimps and peddlers," he said at a Justice Department news conference.

The indictments, in Michigan, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, target the purported operators of four child prostitution rings. Some of the children had been reported missing or had run away because they had been abused at home, FBI assistant director Chris Swecker said.

A grand jury in Camden, N.J., indicted eight people Wednesday on charges that they conspired to recruit girls to be prostitutes in Atlantic City, Las Vegas and New York, according to court documents. The defendants managed a prostitution ring that also extended to Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia, the indictment said.

In Detroit, a grand jury charged four Ohio residents with forcing two girls, 14 and 15, to have sex at a truck stop in Michigan. The girls had been held as prisoners in Toledo, Ohio, where they were told to address one defendant as "Daddy," and taken to hotel rooms for prostitution. A second indictment in Michigan charges three men with prostitution, child pornography, money laundering, and drug and weapons violations. Their organization did business in Michigan and Hawaii, prosecutors said.

In Pennsylvania, 16 people have been charged for their roles in taking girls as young as 12 to work as prostitutes at truck stops in the Harrisburg area and in Washington and Toledo. The defendants also allegedly gave and sold child and adult prostitutes to one another for personal use, prosecutors said.

Domestic child prostitution cases have been a federal law enforcement priority since 2003 with the Justice Department's Innocence Lost Initiative. When Gonzales became attorney general in February, he said he would focus on reducing all forms of human trafficking. There have been more than 500 arrests, 70 indictments and 67 convictions in such cases since 2003, he said.

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