Sixteen juveniles were recovered and more than 45 pimps and their associates were arrested in a joint Super Bowl operation targeting child sex trafficking, the FBI announced in a press release Tuesday.
The minors recovered range in age from 13 to 17-years-old and include high school students and children who had been reported missing by their families as well as international human trafficking victims, according to the release.
The FBI said that some of those arrested in the operation claimed to have traveled to New Jersey from other states specifically for the purpose of prostituting women and children at the Super Bowl.
“High-profile special events, which draw large crowds, have become lucrative opportunities for child prostitution criminal enterprises,” said Ron Hosko, assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “The FBI and our partners remain committed to stopping this cycle of victimization and putting those who try to profit from this type of criminal activity behind bars.”
The operation, which spanned more than six months, was led by the FBI in conjunction with over 50 law enforcement agencies.
The FBI’s victim specialists provided 70 women and children services such as food, clothing, and referrals to health care facilities, shelters and other programs over the course of the operation, the release said.
The FBI’s Super Bowl operation efforts are part of the Innocence Lost National Initiative that was established in 2003. The initiative is responsible for recovering more than 3,100 children. The investigations and subsequent 1,400 convictions have resulted in lengthy sentences, including 11 life terms and the seizure of more than $3.1 million in assets, according to the release.