‘A massive success’: 47 rescued, 102 arrested in human trafficking investigation across 12 states

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt gives remarks on Operation United Front, a joint state and federal anti-human trafficking operation, in a video uploaded to YouTube on Friday, Aug. 27, 2021.
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt gives remarks on Operation United Front, a joint state and federal anti-human trafficking operation, in a video uploaded to YouTube on Friday, Aug. 27, 2021. | Screenshot: YouTube/Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt

A major human trafficking law enforcement operation has resulted in the rescue of 47 people who were trafficked and the arrest of 102 individuals across 12 states. Two of the victims rescued are minors. 

Known as “Operation United Front,” the endeavor was led by the Missouri Attorney General’s Office and the Missouri State Highway Patrol and included the participation of law enforcers from the federal government and other states.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt said in a statement released last Friday that his office’s anti-human trafficking task force is “a national leader for our efforts to investigate and eradicate human trafficking in Missouri.”

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“Through that task force, we were able to engage law enforcement agencies and attorneys general from across the country to organize and lead Operation United Front, which was a massive success,” stated Schmitt.

“Operation United Front was an unprecedented human trafficking operation that brought together law enforcement agencies from different jurisdictions – something that rarely happens. When we all come together, we can affect change and more effectively fight human trafficking, a crime that is often multi-jurisdictional in nature.”

In addition to Missouri, Operation United Front also involved arrests and rescues in Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin.

In South Dakota, nine individuals were arrested for alleged involvement in human trafficking while attending the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, according to a statement from the United States Department of Justice earlier this month.

Eight of the nine men arrested at Sturgis face charges of attempting to entice a minor using the internet. One is facing charges of attempted commercial sex trafficking of a minor.

If found guilty for attempted enticement of a minor via the Internet, the penalty can include 10 years to life in prison. If found guilty of attempted commercial sex trafficking of a minor, the penalty can include 15 years to life in prison and a $250,000 fine.

In recent years, there has been a concerted effort among states and the federal government to crackdown on human trafficking in the United States.

In March, Texas authorities arrested around 30 people attempting to buy sex and rescued a minor over the course of three days as part of “Operation Cupid.”

“Operation Cupid aimed to combat human trafficking in Fort Bend County by identifying and arresting those intending to buy sex,” stated Assistant District Attorney Craig Priesmeyer, according to the Fort Bend Herald.

“Commonly known as ‘johns,’ they create the demand for human trafficking and contribute to the pervasive problem the community faces from these crimes. We are focused on saving victims by following basic economics; removing the demand will reduce the supply.” 

In Arizona in February, police arrested 37 people charged with child sex crimes and human trafficking as part of the multi-agency “Operation Broken Hearts.”

In January, 33 missing children were rescued as part of “Operation Lost Angels” in California. The effort was led by the FBI in conjunction with over two dozen law enforcement and non-governmental partners. 

Last November, the Tallahassee Police Department in Florida announced that over 170 people were charged in a two-year investigation into a sex trafficking network in the state.

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