Over 500 suspects were arrested and 56 people rescued in a huge California human-trafficking and pedophile ring crackdown.
The Los Angeles County Regional Human Trafficking Task Forces confirmed the arrests on Tuesday during the three-day sweep named ‘Operation Reclaim and Rebuild.’
ABC reports: During the operation, which took place between Jan. 25 and 27, the task force said 45 adults and 11 girls were rescued.
Among the 510 suspects arrested, 30 are suspected traffickers and 178 are alleged “johns.”
The task force is housed by the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department and is a collaboration of more than 85 federal, state, county and local law enforcement and nonprofit community organizations.
Speaking at a Tuesday press conference, Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell gave details surrounding some of the arrests.
“The message we hope to send to the traffickers is don’t do business in Los Angeles County or the state of California because we will find you and prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law,” he said.
In one very disturbing incident in Milpitas, California, a man dressed in full police uniform – including a side arm – was arrested on felony charges after he sexually assaulted a human-trafficking victim, McDonnell said. The suspect was found to be already on felony probation and wanted by police for additional, similar crimes.
The sheriff said the operation targeted those who use the internet to exploit victims. In one such instance, McDonnell said an undercover deputy posing as a young female on social media was contacted by a suspect, who recruited her to work for him in the commercial sex trade.
After arranging a meeting, the pimp drove from Riverside County to meet with his victim. He demanded $500 from the victim for him to manage her. The suspect would collect the money from the customers and give the victim whatever he decided she needed. McDonnell said the suspect was arrested by task force detectives and found to be in possession of a stolen .357 Magnum handgun.
The task force was established in November 2015 and since that time, 948 suspects have been arrested in connection to human trafficking.
The Los Angeles-based nonprofit Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking is providing help, including shelter and food, to the victims rescued during the operation.