(UPI) — More than 50 people were arrested for attempting to solicit children for sex or trafficking victims in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area this month during the NCAA Final Four, authorities said.
Twenty-eight people were from trafficking situations during the operation, including one minor, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said in a statement Wednesday. The five-day sting netted 47 felony arrests for soliciting a minor or prostitutes under 16. Eleven people were arrested on probable cause for sex trafficking.
“This operation is an example of the aggressive steps necessary to stop traffickers and johns who buy and sell people for sex in our communities,” BCA Supt. Drew Evans said.
Officials said undercover agents posed as minors or sex buyers on social media platforms and arranged a meeting place.
“While the eyes of the basketball world were focused on the court at the U.S. Bank Stadium, some were attempting to hide in the shadows of our great community, trafficking and exploiting women and girls, inflicting unimaginable physical and emotional harm, and profiting from pain,” St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell said.
Several victims advocate organizations including Alexandria House, Breaking Free and The Linkhave helped the women who were rescued.
A similar sting operation was done in January and February for the Super Bowl in Atlanta. Police there arrested 169 people over an 11-day period.
READING, Pa. – The raid of a rooming house in Reading last month has led to the indictments of eight alleged gang members on federal sex trafficking charges.
The U.S. attorney’s office in Philadelphia filed the indictment Thursday, accusing the eight suspects of trafficking women and girls by “force and manipulation.”
“We are thankful that the Grand Jury returned this indictment to get these people off the streets of this city,” said U.S. Attorney William McSwain. “Sex trafficking, especially of minor children, is a pervasive problem that demands an aggressive response. We stand ready with our federal and local law enforcement partners to identify and dismantle gangs that perpetuate this abuse.”
The suspects were identified by federal authorities as Shaquile W. Newson, Alexander M. Malave, Karvarise E. Person, Bryanna C. Concepcion, Fatiema Bivens, Savion Garcia, Isaiah Rowe, and Michael Diaz-Walker.
Authorities said they conspired to recruit, entice, harbor, transport, provide, obtain, and maintain by any means females to engage in commercial sex acts. Some of the victims, they said, were under the age of 18.
The suspects’ arrests come nearly a month after a team of federal, state and local law enforcement authorities, armed with search warrants, converged on a rooming house on South Fourth Street, going room to room as part of their investigation.
The rooming house served as the headquarters for the eight suspects and their violent gang, known as the Sevens, according to federal prosecutors.
The gang’s name, officials said, is derived from the word “loyalty,” which also has seven letters. The Sevens gang, they said, is formed by members of other gangs, including the Gangster Disciples, Crips, Bloods and Latin Kings.
Officials identified Newson, aka “Raw” and “San,” and Malave, aka “Buju” and “Ace,” as the Sevens’ co-founders. Newson gave orders and sanctioned and approved all gang members’ activities; Malave, also a member of the Bloods, ensured that gang rules were followed and resorted to violence when they were not, according to the indictment.
Person, aka “Crazy K,” “Killa,” and “K,” and Concepcion, aka “Bree,” were generals in the gang, officials said. Both worked to recruit women to engage in sexual encounters, with Person helping to determine what rates to charge and Concepcion posting advertisements for paid encounters and training the girls and women to engage in them for money, according to the indictment.
Garcia, aka “Quiet,” and Rowe, aka “Izzy,” served as guards of the rooming house and enforcers in the gang, authorities said. They were tasked with controlling access to and maintaining physical security for the rooming house, including watching for police activity on the block, ensuring that the women and girls did not flee the building, and recruiting women and girls to work as prostitutes, according to the indictment.
Bivens was “a money maker” who engaged in sexual encounters for money and forced, or attempted to force, other females to engage in sexual encounters for money, according to the indictment.
Diaz-Walker, aka “Big Mike,” assisted in posting advertisements for paid sexual encounters, took photos of the females for use in those ads, and drove the females to the locations of the encounters, according to the indictment.
The suspects were charged with conspiracy to commit sex trafficking by force, fraud, or coercion, and in sex trafficking of minors.
“We want to thank Homeland Security Investigations, Reading Police Department, and Pennsylvania State Police for their invaluable work investigating this case
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