Feds take down Chicago teen traffickers in US crackdown

An ABC7 I-Team Investigation

ByChuck Goudie and Barb Markoff, Christine Tressel and Ross Weidner WLS logo
Wednesday, October 18, 2017
Feds take down Chicago teen traffickers
The FBI and police in Arlington Heights, Schaumburg and Lansing have raided sex trafficking operations involving teenage girls.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Federal agents in Chicago have arrested two teenage traffickers and rescued three minors held as sex slaves, the I-Team has learned.

RELATED VIDEO: The Daughter Trade

"Jane" tells the I-Team how she was recruited into the trade, abused by her trafficker, eventually escaped from him and then testified against him in court.

The raids here were part of a four-day effort by the FBI called "Operation Cross Country XI". In one location, a 3-month old girl was found being used by sex traffickers.

Nationwide, U.S. authorities say they arrested 120 traffickers and recovered 84 minors between October 12-15. The I-Team was briefed on the Chicago enforcement action, which will be announced later Wednesday.

Chicago is among 55 FBI field offices where Operation Cross Country (OCC) arrests were made. FBI agents and task force officers staged operations in hotels, casinos, and truck stops, as well as on street corners and Internet websites. The youngest victim recovered during this year's operation was 3 months old, and the average age of victims recovered during the operation was 15.

"We at the FBI have no greater mission than to protect our nation's children from harm. Unfortunately, the number of traffickers arrested-and the number of children recovered-reinforces why we need to continue to do this important work," said FBI Director Christopher Wray. "This operation isn't just about taking traffickers off the street. It's about making sure we offer help and a way out to these young victims who find themselves caught in a vicious cycle of abuse."

Operation Cross Country XI is part of the FBI's Innocence Lost National Initiative, which began in 2003 and has yielded more than 6,500 child identifications and locations.

The 3-month old and a five-year old were recovered by FBI agents in Denver on October 13. A friend of the children's family offered an undercover officer access to the two children for sex in exchange for $600, investigators said.

The federal takedown comes less than three weeks after an I-Team investigation exposed "The Daughter Trade." Our investigation found that across the city and suburbs girls between the ages of 12 and 15 are being forced into a brutal lifestyle they have trouble escaping. Sex trafficking is a multi-billion dollar business and young girls are the product. FBI officials say it is the fastest growing crime in America and no one is immune.