By Michelle Hunter, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune on July 30, 2013—
“When FBI agents partnered with the New Orleans Police Department, the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office and Louisiana State Police to conduct sex trafficking stings during this past weekend, they were hoping to snare adults who were forcing juveniles into prostitution. Adults like Todd Bacchus, who authorities say pimped a 17-year-old runaway from Terrebonne Parish, advertising her online for paid sex with buyers in Metairie and Houston.
Although Bacchus, 25, of New Orleans, was booked Monday in Jefferson Parish with human trafficking and trafficking of a child for sex purposes, his arrest wasn’t part of the sweeping, 76-city FBI trafficking sting, dubbed Operation Cross Country. But he and other alleged purveyors of preteen and teenage prostitution represent a troubling trend in the Crescent City, according to Michael J. Anderson, special agent in charge of the FBI’s New Orleans Division. Bacchus had been tracked by authorities for some time and a warrant for his arrest was issued in March. Authorities caught up to him in Houston earlier in July.
A state statute makes it illegal to recruit, harbor, transport or sell anyone younger than 18 for the purpose of engaging in commercial sexual activity.
During the recent three-day sting, New Orleans area investigators recovered four juveniles and arrested at least 16 adults on prostitution-related charges. “There was no special event in town,” Anderson said. “We weren’t doing this during Mardi Gras or the Super Bowl. We had the numbers that we did on a fairly normal weekend.
“We’ve got a serious problem here that’s a year-round issue,” he said.
Local arrests began as ‘dates’
Nationally, agents recovered 105 children during the operation, which is conducted annually and is in its seventh year, according to Mary Beth Romig, spokeswoman for the FBI’s New Orleans Division. Authorities also arrested 150 people suspected of pimping or sexually exploiting the juveniles for financial gain.
Locally, law enforcement officers set up “dates” with targets through websites regularly used to advertise prostitution, Anderson said. They arrested the suspects after deals were cut for money in exchange for sex.”
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