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Florida police arrest at least 170 people in child sex trafficking sting

Florida police arrest at least 170 people in child sex trafficking sting

More than 170 people were charged Tuesday in a large-scale investigation by the Tallahassee Police Department (TPD) and Florida state and federal officials into the sex trafficking of a teenage girl.

TPD Chief Lawrence Revell announced the results of the two-year investigation, which launched to find perpetrators of trafficking operations and child pornography solicitations regarding the victim who was 13 and 14 when the offenses occurred, Tallahassee Democrat reported.

About 106 defendants have been charged with felony counts of human trafficking, lewd and lascivious battery on a child under 16, and production and possession of child pornography.

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Seventy-two people were charged with misdemeanors for counts, including solicitation of prostitution. 

Nearly 20 defendants face federal charges, according to the report.

In a statement to The Hill, TPD wrote, "The investigation uncovered an enormous amount of electronic evidence that required months to evaluate. The electronic evidence helped investigators further develop the case and determine how many suspects were involved and to what extent."

During a news conference Tuesday outside TPD's headquarters, Revell said that the operation could have been the largest in the department's history.

Operation Stolen Innocence investigations started in November 2018 after investigators detected images of a minor posted on a website with sex-for-pay listings, Revell said at a press conference.

TPD's Special Victims Unit went out to rescue the child, who cooperated with authorities to bring charges against her exploiters.

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Kevin Sibley, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Tampa acting Special Agent in Charge, thanked TPD and HSI special agents for their help on the case.

"It is difficult to comprehend the depravity of these criminals who prey on the most innocent in our society," said Sibley in a written statement TPD provided The Hill.

The department highlighted human trafficking statistics in the U.S., underscoring an estimated 199,000 related incidents occur in the nation each year.