Children rescued from alleged prostitution ring

November 8, 2010 (CHICAGO)

Sixty-nine juveniles were also rescued, including three from the Chicago area.

The operation by federal agents focused on 40 cities across the country.

Chicago FBI agents were assisted in the operation by the Illinois State Police, Chicago police investigators, and 23 county and suburban police departments.

The Cook County Sheriff's human trafficking unit works to rehabilitate child prostitutes.

"I started prostituting when I was 14 and I didn't get out until I was 39 years old," said Brenda Myers-Powell who counsels recently-arrested prostitutes on ways to escape the sex industry as a member of the Cook Co. Sherriff's trafficking unit.

Her story begins on Rush Street on Good Friday in 1973.

"I went down there on my own to make some money and that night made more money than I'd ever seen at one time. I made $300, almost $400," said Myers-Powell.

The money is intoxicating, but it is the fear, experts say, that drives many child prostitutes.

"I was shot five times. I've been stabbed over 13 times. I've been knocked unconscious. This is normal for women in prostitution," said Myers-Powell.

FBI agents in Chicago set up a series of stings that netted 45 arrests: pimps, johns, adult prostitutes and three girls - two 16, the other 17 - selling themselves.

"We found three this year, we found four last year. Are there more? Most likely," said Ross Rice, FBI spokesman.

The busts happened at motels in Lansing, Hazel Crest and Downers Grove. The customers set up their sexual rendezvous on the Internet.

"There were no requests for minors, these were just underage girls being forced to - or allowed to - engage in sexual activity," said Ross.

"The message I give them is this: doesn't have to be their life. Their life doesn't have to revolve around how many men they slept with," said Myers-Powell.

The three teens rescued in the Chicago area are now in the care of child welfare agencies.

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