CLEVELAND, Ohio - The FBI along with local police and the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Office have made 80 arrests in the Cleveland area alone targeting prostitution, trying to identify and recover children who have been sold into human trafficking.
FBI Special Agent Scott Wilson says the effort has been an annual operation by federal agents, who nationwide have arrested 99 pimps, with more than 600 other adults involved in prostitution activities.
Wilson says recent sweeps have recovered two juveniles in Toledo, where more than 60 children have been recovered in recent years, after they were sold into a life of prostitution.
Wilson says the girls who are drawn into these criminal operations have been as young as 12-years-old. According to Wilson, they are often kids who have been put out by their parents or who are loners and are befriended by pimps who are very good at making the kids feel comfortable and wanted.
Many of the girls are reported as runaways or missing according to Wilson.
After a period of time, Wilson says, they are mistreated, perhaps beaten, and intimidated into working for the pimps. Wilson says many of the juveniles are then transported over state lines to clients, or 'Johns' who will pay for their services.
Federal Investigators say the clients will often use the internet to make arrangements on personal pages that can identify the girls as being adults, when in fact they are teenagers.
In the Cleveland area, 36 adult prostitutes were identified or arrested, 44 'Johns' were arrested, resulting in the seizure of 32 cars, 2 guns, and $6,000 in cash, while two pimps were arrested.
The FBI identifies one of the pimps as 33-year-old Andre O'Bello who faces multiple charges that include rape, kidnapping and compelling prostitution.
FBI agents say one of the most active areas is along Lorain Avenue between West 50th and West 80th. One resident living in the area, who does not want to be identified, tells Fox 8 News it is not unusual to see several prostitutes on corners peddling their services.
Wilson says even though all of the people arrested in Cleveland are adults, it is naive to think that children are not being sold in the sex trade here as well.
The FBI will soon be putting billboards up trying to increase awareness of the problem and urge residents to call with any information they may have. Copyright © 2010, WJW-TV