21 arrested in Utah human trafficking sting, some victims trafficked through social media

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Utah authorities have arrested 21 individuals involved in a large-scale human trafficking sting. 

The Utah County Sheriff’s Office (UCSO), in collaboration with seven other Utah police departments, Federal Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Utah Attorney General’s Office, rescued three trafficking victims during their operation conducted between Feb. 14-17.

Some victims were trafficked through social media, though UCSO told Fox News Digital it could not disclose which platforms due to ongoing investigations. The sheriff’s office noted that some are “less-known or less-used” social platforms.

In this photo illustration the logo of US online social media and social networking service apps on a smartphone.

One of the three rescued victims included an 18-year-old Honduran immigrant.

He had sought help from suspects who eventually “took his passport and his phone and forced him into human trafficking sex operations and would not let him go,” Utah County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Sgt. Spencer Cannon said.

“This young man thought he was working to earn his freedom. He spoke almost no English and felt trapped with no way out,” Cannon continued.

Some of the male suspects involved in the case traveled to meet children for sex. One suspect had ropes, sex toys and lingerie in his possession when he was arrested, FOX 13 first reported.

A forensic examination of eight cell phones allowed law enforcement to identify several potential victims, traffickers and a witness who cooperated with authorities.

Follow-up forensic examination of eight cell phones identified several potential victims, traffickers and a cooperating witness in a current human trafficking case being investigated by Unified Police Department.

Utah County Jail.
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Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes’ office issued a statement Thursday saying it is “observing a growing number of teens are putting themselves in danger” on social media “by getting involved with strangers who pretend to be friendly but who are, in reality, dangerous.”

“Young people may not be fully aware of the risk involved,” the release states.

The primary focus of the operation was to identify and rescue victims of human trafficking or sex trafficking, USCO said. An investigation into the trafficking case is ongoing.

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