More than 100 people were arrested and dozens of sex workers were rescued in a multi-state human trafficking investigation, officials announced.
Two of the rescued victims were children.
Authorities with the Missouri Attorney General’s Office and the Missouri State Highway Patrol led the effort dubbed “Operation United Front." The bust began on Aug. 27 as state and federal law enforcement agencies from 12 states participated.
It is believed to be the first Attorney General-led multi-state operation of its kind.
Missouri and participating agencies from other states involved included Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin, rescued 47 victims and sex workers and provided needed medical services to 41. Police also arrested 102 people across the country in connection with human trafficking.
Authorities “sting” human trafficking operations to aid in the busts, according to the Missouri Attorney General's Office. Officials said states conducted “minor recovery” operations, which rescued two children, who are more vulnerable and easily manipulated in regards to human trafficking.
"Operation United Front was an unprecedented human trafficking operation that brought together law enforcement agencies from different jurisdictions – something that rarely happens," Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt said in a statement.
“The Missouri Attorney General’s Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force has been recognized as a national leader for our efforts to investigate and eradicate human trafficking in Missouri. 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, rescuing 47 victims including two minors, and making 102 arrests across 12 states,” Schmitt said in a statement.
“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. My Office will not stop in our quest to investigate and eradicate human trafficking in Missouri.”
Four victims were rescued in Missouri and two people were arrested, while Kentucky brought in the biggest rescue and most arrests, with 21 victims rescued and 26 arrests. Officials said the two minors that were rescued were from Kentucky.
Schmitt said South Dakota’s operation took place at the Sturgis Biker Rally, where nine people were arrested. Eight of those arrests were for enticement of a minor using the internet, and the other was for attempted commercial sex trafficking of a minor.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol and the Missouri Attorney General’s Office served as the main communications hub to coordinate other states’ operations.
Police in Iowa made 11 arrests and seized a large amount of money. Officials in Minnesota made three arrests and rescued eight victims, while authorities in Nebraska made seven arrests, and North Dakota made three arrests and rescued six victims.
Officials in Oklahoma made seven arrests and rescued one victim, while Tennessee police made four arrests, Texas authorities made two arrests, rescued four victims and in Wisconsin, there were five arrests.