Hundreds of FBI special agents partnered with thousands of local police officers, deputy sheriffs, state troopers, and other law enforcement personnel throughout the United States this past week, arresting those responsible for exploiting underage children through prostitution. The sixth iteration of Operation Cross Country, a three-day law enforcement action, led to the recovery of 79 children was known as Operation Cross Country VI. Additionally, 104 pimps were arrested by local and state law enforcement on a variety of prostitution related charges.
Operation Cross Country is part of the Innocence Lost National Initiative that was created in 2003 by the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division, in partnership with the Department of Justice and National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), to address the growing problem of domestic child sex trafficking in the United States.
To date, the 47 Innocence Lost Task Forces and Working Groups have recovered more than 2,200 children from the streets. The investigations and subsequent 1,017 convictions have resulted in lengthy sentences, including eight life terms and the seizure of more than $3.1 million in assets.
Task force operations usually begin as local enforcement actions targeting such places as truck stops, casinos, street “tracks,” and the Internet, based on intelligence gathered by officers working in their respective jurisdictions. Initial arrests are often violations of local and state laws relating to prostitution or solicitation. Information gleaned from those arrested often uncovers organized efforts to prostitute women and children across many states. FBI agents further develop this information in partnership with U.S. Attorney’s Offices and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section and file federal charges where appropriate.
No juveniles were discovered in a Naperville sting, but five people face charges related to prostitution. Sherry A. Cameron, 33, and Tara A. Zagone, 19, both of Palatine were arrested along with Melissa S. Ronczkowski, 23, of Bolingbrook; Michael A. Porter, 22, of Clarendon Hills; and Sharon L. Romaine, 50, of Vernon Hills. Ronczkowski was also charged with felony possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. Michael Porter was also charged with driving with a suspended license, possession of less than 2.5 grams of marijuana and driving with expired registration.
Undercover Naperville police officers set up meetings with people in ads at hotels and motels while searching social networking websites offering massages. During the meetings, multiple arrests were made after sexual favors were offered to undercover police officers in exchange for money.
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