Nov. 18 (UPI) — Florida authorities say a sting operation has netted greater than 170 suspects after a two-year investigation into a toddler intercourse trafficking ring within the state.

The suspects face costs that vary from solicitation of prostitution to human trafficking of a minor. The investigation was often called “Operation Stolen Innocence.”

Tallahassee Police Chief Lawrence Revell mentioned the operation started in November 2018 when investigators noticed pictures of a teenage woman on an internet site that marketed intercourse for cash. Police arrange the sting to rescue the woman and it in the end led to dozens of arrests.

“This investigation is a testomony to how diligent our investigators work to reinforce the standard of life for everybody on this neighborhood, particularly our susceptible inhabitants,” Revell mentioned in an announcement. “They labored tirelessly to deliver justice to the sufferer on this case and have been capable of make an unprecedented variety of human trafficking associated arrests.”

Greater than 70 suspects have been charged with misdemeanors, greater than 100 have been charged with felonies and 18 face federal costs, Revell mentioned.

A lot of proof got here from digital sources like textual content messages and posts to social media that officers mentioned took “months to guage.”

The Division of Homeland Safety, U.S. Lawyer’s workplace and state and native legislation enforcement officers have been all a part of the operation.

Tallahassee police investigator Elizabeth Bascom informed reporters that the younger teenage woman who labored with police was subjected to “horrific” abuse and exploitation that in all probability started earlier than she even turned 13. She is predicted to testify in courtroom.

“She was capable of say that this has significantly impacted her life, and it is rather troublesome at instances,” Bascom mentioned. “However she is working to get her life again.”

“It’s troublesome to grasp the depravity of those criminals who prey on essentially the most harmless in our society,” added Kevin Sibley, performing particular agent in command of Homeland Safety Investigations Tampa. “Due to the collective efforts of the Tallahassee Police Division and HSI particular brokers, our native communities are considerably safer at the moment.”