June 26, 2008 / 2:09 AM / 10 years ago

Hundreds nabbed in U.S. child prostitution sting

FBI Director Robert Mueller speaks to reporters during a press conference announcing the results of Operation Cross Country, a five-day sweep that targeted criminals involved in trafficking children for prostitution, June 26, 2008. With Mueller is Ernie Allen, President and CEO of the National Center for Missing & Exploited. REUTERS/FBI/Handout

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - More than 300 people have been arrested for involvement in child prostitution rings and 21 children rescued in a nationwide sweep, the FBI said on Wednesday.

“Operation Cross Country,” a five-day sting that ended on Sunday, spanned 16 cities in 10 states and the District of Columbia and caught 389 people who exploited children through prostitution, the agency said.

Investigations uncovered schemes ranging from prostituting children at truck stops to promoting their services on the Internet, the FBI said.

“We together have no higher calling than to protect our children and to safeguard their innocence. Yet, the sex trafficking of children remains one of the most violent and unforgivable crimes in this country,” FBI Director Robert Mueller said at a news conference.

The announcement marked the anniversary of the FBI’s Innocence Lost National Initiative project launched in June 2003 as part of an effort to eradicate child prostitution.

“To date, the Innocence Lost investigations have led to the conviction of 308 individuals,” Mueller said.

“But most importantly, our efforts have led to the recovery of 433 child victims.”

Writing by JoAnne Allen, Editing by Peter Cooney

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