"Operation Cross Country" by the FBI netted more than 280 arrests of pimps around the country, including four in Prince George's County.
Rebecca Wu, a spokesperson for the FBI, says local, state and federal law enforcement partners and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children took part in the week-long operation, which became the largest and most successful Operation Cross Country. The investigation included 106 cities.
FBI Director James B. Comey said this was the eighth time the FBI coordinated an operation against sex trafficking. The nationwide campaign targeted places ranging from casinos, to truck stops to pornography stores.
"Targeting and harming America's children through commercial sex trafficking is a heinous crime, with serious consequences," Comey said in a press release. "Every child deserves to be safe and sound. Through targeted measures like Operation Cross Country, we can end the cycle of victimization."
Two teen girls from the Washington D.C. metro area were rescued by the FBI, including a 16-year-old girl from D.C. found in a Rockville motel. More than 160 others were rescued nationwide.
"One was returned to their parents and one was taken to social services for help," special agent in charge Steve Vogt said.
Four pimps were arrested in Prince George's County and another was found in Baltimore County. They will face federal charges.
Human Trafficking Laws in Maryland
Maryland law directly addresses sex trafficking, without the need to show force, fraud, or coercion, through Md. Code Ann., Crim. Law § 11-303 (Human trafficking). Under Md. Code Ann., Crim. Law § 11-303(a)(1), it is illegal for a person to knowingly
(i) take or cause another to be taken to any place for prostitution;
(ii) place, cause to be placed, or harbor another in any place for prostitution;
(iii) persuade, induce, entice, or encourage another to be taken to or placed in any place for prostitution;
(iv) receive consideration to procure for or place in a house of prostitution or elsewhere another with the intent of causing the other to engage in prostitution or assignation;
(v) engage in a device, scheme, or continuing course of conduct intended to cause another to believe that if the other did not take part in a sexually explicit performance, the other or a third person would suffer physical restraint or serious physical harm . . .
. . . .
If the victim of the conduct described in Md. Code Ann., Crim. Law § 11-303(a)(1) is a minor, the defendant is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment up to 25 years, a fine not to exceed $15,000, or both. Md. Code Ann., Crim. Law § 11-303(b), (c)(2).
Pursuant to Md. Code Ann., Crim. Law § 11-303(e), "A person who knowingly benefits financially or by receiving anything of value from participation in a venture that includes an act described in subsection (a) or (b) of this section is subject to the same penalties that would apply if the person had violated that subsection." If the offense involves a minor, that person also will be guilty, without regard to the use of force, fraud, or coercion, of a felony punishable by imprisonment up to 25 years, a fine not to exceed $15,000 or both. Md. Code Ann., Crim. Law § 11-303(e)(1), (c)(2).