FBI operation rescues 18 children in Denver metro from sex trafficking; 11 alleged pimps arrested

DENVER - More young victims of child sex trafficking were recovered in the Denver area by a recent national operation than in any other area involved. FBI agents and local law enforcement recovered 18 children and arrested 11 alleged pimps.

7NEWS has learned the Motel 6 on Iliff Avenue is Aurora is among the locations that caught the attention of investigators. A room rented there was used for prostitution earlier this month according to a document obtained by 7NEWS.

The number of rescues in Colorado is the most of any state in the nation according to FBI statistics.  Experts say it's a reflection of community awareness of the problem. 

"Not only do you have law enforcement focusing on building cases and prosecution, you also have service providers at the ready," said Dr. AnnJanette Alejano-Steele, research director, Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking in Denver.  "You can be trafficked in your home.  You can be trafficked in your own community."

In total, the FBI says 168 victims of child sex trafficking were rescued in the last week, including many who had never been reported missing.

In addition, 281 total alleged pimps were arrested as part of the same nationwide initiative, an annual enforcement push known as Operation Cross Country.

FBI Director James Comey told reporters Monday that the children who were rescued did not come from faraway lands but were instead "America's children."

This is the eighth such week-long operation. The FBI says nearly 3,600 children have so far been recovered from the streets.

Comey says one worrisome trend is the increasing prevalence of children being prostituted online.

Local experts are curious to see who has been arrested.  They're noticing a trend of women and young adults serving as the leaders of trafficking schemes.

FBI spokesman Dave Joly confirmed that this investigation involved the Innocence Lost Task Force, the same group involved in a sting in Aurora that caught more than 30 suspected johns earlier this month. Nine of those johns face felonies for patronizing a prostitute who was a 17-year-old high school student.

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