FBI sex-trafficking sweep turns up Anchorage victims, suspects
Federal authorities assisted more than a dozen possible victims of Anchorage sex trafficking during a four-day nationwide sweep that ended last weekend, leading to a number of pending criminal cases.
The Anchorage office of the FBI issued a statement Wednesday on the conclusion of its 11th annual Operation Cross Country, which targets child sex trafficking. A total of 55 FBI offices across the U.S. took part in the operation, which spanned from Oct. 12 to Oct. 15.
“Locally, during the multi-day undercover operation, fourteen potential victims of sex trafficking were contacted,” FBI officials wrote. “The victims ranged from age 15 to 34. They were from Alaska, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, Illinois, New York and Texas.”
On a national level, the FBI reported recovering 84 minors and arresting 120 alleged traffickers.
“Child sex trafficking is happening all across America, including here in Anchorage,” Marlin Ritzman, the FBI’s local special agent in charge, said in the statement. “Forcing a child to have sex so the pimp can make money is one of the most heinous crimes there is. The FBI, including us here in Anchorage, do all we can to rescue our most vulnerable citizens from this horrible abuse.”
FBI spokeswoman Staci Feger-Pellessier said Wednesday that charges were pending against several Anchorage-based pimps identified during the operation. Agents were also looking into potential human-trafficking cases resulting from the busts, and further charges were possible.
“Those are still things we’re investigating,” Feger-Pellessier said.
Numerous local and state agencies participated in Operation Cross Country, including police in Anchorage and at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport as well as the Alaska State Troopers. Federal agencies included the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Services, the Drug Enforcement Agency and the IRS.
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