Phoenix FBI arrest 32 suspects in child sex trafficking sting, rescue 5 minors

Aug 1, 2023, 4:00 PM

Operation Cross Country child sex trafficking sting...

An officer stands in front of a screen showing surveillance footage. (Phoenix FBI photo)

(Phoenix FBI photo)

PHOENIX — FBI agents arrested 31 potential predators in a multi-agency child sex trafficking sting earlier this week, according to a Tuesday news release.

The FBI’s Phoenix field office also announced it nabbed the alleged pimp behind the ring.

“We did identify and locate five minor victims of sex trafficking here in the Valley,” FBI Phoenix Public Affairs Officer Kevin Smith told KTAR News 92.3 FM.

FBI agents across the country teamed up with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to rescue minors from sex trafficking, Smith said.

The child sex trafficking sting was part of Operation Cross Country

This year’s rescue of underage victims was part of a nationwide initiative.

“It’s the 13th version of the operation,” Smith said. “We really focus on identifying and helping victims of sex trafficking and arresting those who do.”

This year, Operation Cross Country was a resounding success both in Arizona and across the country, Smith said.

According to the news release, officers working for the operation arrested 126 human trafficking suspects.

“Our goal for this is to uncover victims, arrest the offender and really to raise public awareness of these heinous crimes,” Smith said.

Officers across the state teamed up to save the children

Smith said the operation involved multiple officers from the FBI Greater Phoenix Area Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force.

“That’s comprised of police officers from Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, Phoenix and Tempe, along with special agents from the FBI,” he said.

Human trafficking goes on 365 days a year, he said. That’s why officers are out 24/7.

“They’re out days, nights, middays, conducting these operations and going to places where this kind of activity is known to happen,” he said. “The 31 people we arrested were actually people attempting to engage with these minors.”

Smith said the victims of child sex trafficking are some of the most vulnerable members of society.

 “The harm to them is unimaginable. These crimes scar the victims. Most of them are children. Minors,” he said. “These kids are scarred sometimes for life.”

That’s why the agents have a victim approach, he said.

“We locate the minor victims. We give them the resources that they need to get out from under the thumb of their trafficker and to maybe get on a different path for a better life.”

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Phoenix FBI arrest 32 suspects in child sex trafficking sting, rescue 5 minors