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Published: Tuesday, 6/26/2012

26 arrested in area in prostitution sweep

BLADE STAFF AND NEWS SERVICES

The FBI made more than two dozen prostitution-related arrests in the Toledo area over four days as part of Operation Cross Country, a national sweep of sex-trafficking rings to rescue children forced into prostitution.

FBI Special Agent Kelly Liberty of the Cleveland office said Monday that 26 of 104 alleged pimps arrested between Thursday and Sunday were in the Toledo area. She did not specify the communities in which the arrests were made.

In addition to Toledo, alleged pimps were arrested in 56 U.S. cities, including Sacramento and Atlanta. Agents rescued 79 teens across the country who authorities say were forced into prostitution and held against their will. Special Agent Liberty said no child prostitutes were found in Toledo during the operation. "We have found juvenile prostitutes in Toledo in the past, but not in [these] past three days," she said.

The teens were 13 to 17 years old and included 77 girls and two boys, the FBI said. All were U.S. citizens and were in custody until being placed with child welfare agencies.

Special Agent Liberty said the operation, conducted by federal, state, and local police and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, is part of the FBI's Innocence Lost initiative. The program fights child sex trafficking.

Innocence Lost has recovered more than 2,200 children. Five such sweeps have occurred since 2008.



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