Young girl ‘raped by multiple suspects from sex trafficking ring’ as 170 charged
The young girl was allegedly raped by several suspects from the same trafficking ring (file photo)
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Police have charged 170 people as part of a horrific sex trafficking inquiry with many of the suspects accused of raping the same young girl.
Officers in Florida said the inquiry centred on the alleged horrific sexual exploitation of a young teenage girl.
The highly secretive investigation reportedly looked into the commercial sex trafficking of the girl when the alleged offences started.
The case has been described as "the most appalling" by authorities in Tallahassee.
Local news channel WTXL reports the investigation took two years and more than 170 people have been charged in recent months.
Tallahassee Police Department Chief Lawrence Revell and state and federal officials announced results of Operation Stolen Innocence.
Police in Florida have rounded up a staggering 170 plus child sex suspects as part of the investigation
Some 106 people were charged with felonies, including human trafficking, lewd and lascivious battery on a child under 16 and production and possession of child pornography, reports said.
Another 72 people were said to be charged with misdemeanours, including solicitation of prostitution.
Among those arrested include a PE teacher and a former chairman of a university fund raising organisation.
Several defendants are women, charged with helping to arrange paid sessions with the girl in exchange for cash, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.
The girl had been spotted on a pay-for-sex website before an investigation was launched.
More than 170 people were arrested in connection to Operation Stolen Innocence and charges range from misdemeanor to felony
Encounters allegedly happened inside a filthy apartment, and hotels and motels across town.
Meetings were reportedly arranged over text messages, Facebook and other social media and apps, leaving a vast electronic trail of evidence that took investigators months to unravel.
Elizabeth Bascom of Tallahassee police is one of the lead investigators.
She said the girl’s exploitation was “horrific” adding the abuse likely began even before her 13th birthday.
Chief Revell said the girl is “on the road to recovery, and she’s doing well given the situation.”
Encounters allegedly happened inside a filthy apartment and hotels and motels across town (file photo)
Ms Bascom said she plans to testify in court, though it’s unclear at this point how many of the cases will go to trial.
“She does have things to say,” Bascom said.
“She was able to say that this has seriously impacted her life, and it is very difficult at times. But she is working to get her life back.”
US Attorney Larry Keefe said: “We in local, state and federal law enforcement are all working together as a team to dismantle their networks and to pursue, prosecute and punish those who are involved.
“Operation Stolen Innocence is an excellent example of how all levels of law enforcement can put it all together and get it done, to take down a child trafficking network right here in our community.”
Lorena Vollrath-Bueno, felony chief for the State Attorney's Office, said: “I know it's hard to believe that something like this happens here in our community, but it does."
Chief Revell said: “The arrests in this operation are the culmination of the diligent work from our dedicated investigators, who have worked tirelessly to bring justice to the victims in this case.”