Utah's Attorney General's Office announced Wednesday an investigation that led to over 71 arrests with charges of human trafficking and child sex exploitation.
The office also said at least six children, between 5 and 12-years-old, were rescued in the operation. Victims are getting assistance from a victim advocate.
The arrests, according to the AG's office, are related to cases where victims were trafficked inside Utah. Some cases were reported to involve minors and some crossed state lines. "Several" of the arrests were related to a nationwide operation, known as Operation Broken Heart III, that involved task forces around the nation.
Officials said in one case, a citizen notified Unified Police of concerns about trafficking at a local hotel. Surveillance netted a search warrant for two hotel rooms and two female victims were discovered. A juvenile female was being actively recruited by the suspected trafficker, according to the AG's office.
In another case, the Attorney General's Office took a complaint about a male trafficking women in multiple states and discovered the Bountiful Police Department was investigating and joined forces with them. The two-month investigation led to an arrest for human trafficking with, according to officials, at least two females in multiple states.
The nationwide task-force effort netted 1,368 arrests, including the 71 Utah arrests.
Operation Broken Heart III also included an educational component that included 2,300 community presentations, 194 in Utah. It involved the 61 Internet Crimes Against Children task forces across the U.S., including in Utah.
Utah arrests included for manufacturing of child pornographyof victims as young as five, adults soliciting other adults to have sexual activity with children in their care, contacting children online for sexual activity and possession of child pornography.
Charges included human trafficking of a child, aggravated sexual abuse of a child, aggravated sodomy of a child, conspiracy to commit rape of a child, manufacturing child pornography, human trafficking, enticing a minor over the internet, exploitation of prostitution, sex abuse, sexual exploitation of a minor, pattern of unlawful activity, dealing harmful material to a child, conspiracy to commit sexual abuse of a child, obstruction of justice, tampering with evidence, exploiting a prostitute and other misdemeanors according to information from the AG's office.
Most cases had multiple counts of the same charge.
A grant from the U.S. Department of Justice funded the effort through the AG's office and the Asian Association of Utah.
Multiple agencies were partnered with the Utah AG's office including Adult Probation and Parole, Bountiful police, Clearfield police, Davis County Attorney Investigations, Davis County Sheriff's Office, Department of Public Safety, Enforcement and Removal Operations and Homeland Security, Layton police, Ogden police, Park City police, Pleasant Grove police, Sevier County Sheriff's Office, South Salt Lake police, Summit County Sheriff's Office, Syracuse police, Uintah County Sheriff's Office, Unified PD, U.S. Marshal's Office, Utah County Sheriff's Office, Vernal police, West Valley police and Wood Cross police.
Anyone with tips is asked to email UtahICAC@Utah.gov or call 801.281.1211. The national trafficking hotline is 1.888.373.7888.