LOS ANGELES (KABC) --Operation Cross Country, an FBI sting targeting child prostitution in the U.S., netted arrests in more than 100 cities, including in Southern California. The sting was conducted over the course of a week and hit child-sex-trafficking operations from coast to coast.
In Southern California, 12 people were arrested in raids that struck in L.A. and Orange counties, as well as in the Inland Empire. The FBI said 10 minors were rescued here.
Across the country, 168 children were rescued, and many of them were never reported missing.
In California, 27 juveniles were recovered, with more than a third of them found in the Los Angeles area.
"During the past week, we worked in counties including San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange and L.A., and throughout the weeks-long operation, we identified 10 victims who are under the age of 18," said FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller.
The FBI says the minors rescued in Southern California were as young as 12 years old. The minors are now in protective custody and receiving counseling as investigators try to track down the parents.
"These are not faraway kids in faraway lands," said FBI Director James Comey. "These are our kids on our street corners, our truck stops, our motels, our casinos. These are America's children."
Comey announced the results of Operation Cross Country Monday morning. The nationwide crackdown unfolded in 106 American cities and landed hundreds of people behind bars.
The FBI says it arrested 281 pimps, the people responsible for pushing the children into the sex trade.
"The lesson of Operation Cross Country is that our children are not for sale, that we will respond and crush these pimps who would crush these children," said Comey.
The FBI provided video of one woman, identified only as "Nicole," who was lured into the sex trade when she was just 17 and couldn't find a way to escape her pimp.
"Everything was tied into him," said Nicole. "I didn't have a house, I didn't have a bank account, I didn't have my own car, I didn't have anything. So if I left 'Juan,' I left everything."
This is the eighth time the FBI has set up one of these child-sex-trafficking stings. Investigators say that in all, more than 1,400 people have been convicted; 14 have been sentenced to life in prison.
And even more importantly: Nearly 3,600 minors have been rescued from the sex trade.