Baltimore FBI agents and local law enforcement officers said they rescued two Maryland girls who were being prostituted and arrested five suspects they said were sexually exploiting children.
The recovery of the two girls, both 16, came as part of a nationwide sting known as Operation Cross Country VIII, which targeted child sex trafficking.
One of the rescued girls was from Baltimore County, the other from Montgomery County. Four of the alleged pimps arrested came from Prince George's County and one from Baltimore County, the FBI said.
The girls were advertised to men in the Baltimore and Washington area through social media, said Steve Vogt, special agent in charge of the FBI's Baltimore field office. Arrangements for sex were scheduled at area hotels, he said.
Vogt said child-sex traffickers often troll the Internet looking for girls to recruit.
"That's the vulnerability for families and their children," he said. "They really have to monitor their children's activities because on social media they can meet these people."
The local operation also made contact with 33 adult women, who were offered assistance by the FBI to leave prostitution. Only three accepted.
Two of the women, Vogt said, had turned 18 only within the month. He said he suspected many prostitutes are drawn into sexual exploitation early on.
The Maryland Child Exploitation Task Force was responsible for the bust. The task force includes Baltimore FBI agents, Maryland State Police and police from Baltimore, Annapolis and Frederick and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Montgomery and Prince George's counties.
Nationwide, the FBI said, the operation rescued 168 children and arrested 281 pimps in 106 cities across the United States. Operation Cross Country VIII works with U.S. attorney's offices and the Department of Justice's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section to aid federal prosecutions.
Between January 2013 and now, the Maryland Child Exploitation Task Force has rescued 49 girls from sexual exploitation, including 20 from Baltimore County, six from Baltimore and three from Anne Arundel County, the FBI said.
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