More than 150 people were arrested and nearly as many underage trafficking victims were rescued as part of a nationwide sex sting, the FBI announced on Wednesday.
The youngest victim was 12 years old.
The effort, which is now in its ninth year, was spearheaded by the FBI and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, along with local law enforcement.
“Human trafficking is a monstrous and devastating crime that steals lives and degrades our nation,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement, announcing the outcome of the sting known as Operation Cross Country.
“As a result of the FBI’s outstanding coordination and exemplary efforts alongside state and local partners during Operation Cross Country, more children will sleep safely tonight, and more wrongdoers will face the judgment of our criminal justice system,” she said.
More than 3,500 sex trafficking cases were reported to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center last year alone.
Under federal law, anyone under 18 years of age induced into commercial sex is a victim of sex trafficking – regardless of whether the trafficker uses force, fraud, or coercion.