3 Mainers among victims in child prostitution sweep

Posted July 29, 2013, at 6:59 p.m.
Last modified July 30, 2013, at 12:50 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — An FBI spokesman confirmed Monday that three of the child prostitution victims rescued during a nationwide three-day weekend sweep are from Maine.

The three victims were found in the same Maine community, Special Agent Greg Comcowich of the FBI Public Affairs office in Boston said late Monday afternoon.

Comcowich, however, said that the bureau is not releasing any additional information at this time, including the victim’s ages and sexes or if anyone from Maine has been charged.

“It’s a very sensitive issue. Because [the victims] are juveniles, we’re releasing very little information,” Comcowich said.

“What we can say is that the real driving force behind [the Maine cases] was the local police department. They’ve asked us not to identify them and we are respecting that,” he said.

According to Reuters, the FBI arrested 150 people across the United States on charges of holding children against their will for prostitution, a three-day weekend sweep that officials on Monday called the largest-ever operation against child sex trafficking.

The suspects, whom the FBI referred to as “pimps,” were arrested in 76 U.S. cities and are expected to face state and federal charges related to sex crimes and human trafficking, FBI and U.S. Justice Department officials said at a news conference, Reuters reported on Monday.

The news agency said that FBI agents and local police recovered 105 children during the operation at truck stops, motels, casinos and other places where they were forced to work as prostitutes.

The FBI said the suspects were not part of the same operation. It said some belonged to organized crime while others acted alone. The bureau did not immediately release a list of the suspects.

The FBI typically does not investigate adult prostitution, leaving it as a state and local matter, but in recent years it has made child prostitution a priority in a program the FBI calls Operation Cross Country. The program includes highway billboards asking people to call the FBI with tips.

About 1,350 people have been convicted as part of the program and at least 10 of them were sentenced to life in prison, officials said.

The latest sweep was the seventh and largest under Operation Cross Country, they said.

Child prostitution is a growing problem in Maine, law enforcement officials said in 2012.

“Traffickers will come up from Atlantic City, Boston and New York and essentially trick these girls into working for them,” Portland police Sgt. Tim Ferris said last year.

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