Officials have arrested 58 people as a result of an undercover sex trafficking operation during the NCAA tournament's Final Four in Minneapolis last week, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety announced on Wednesday.
According to the department, 47 people were charged for felony solicitation of a minor and 11 for sex trafficking or promotion of prostitution. Twenty-eight others, including one minor, were rescued from trafficking situations.
“This operation is an example of the aggressive steps necessary to stop traffickers and johns who buy and sell people for sex in our communities,” BCA Superintendent Drew Evans said in the release. “We can’t let this crime continue, and we must work together to stop it.”
During the five-day operation, suspects chatted on several social media platforms with undercover agents and investigators who posed as minors or as sex buyers. Investigators arrested the suspects as they arrived at an arranged meeting place for an encounter.
“While the eyes of the basketball world were focused on the court at U.S. Bank Stadium, some were attempting to hide in the shadows of our great community, trafficking and exploiting women and girls, inflicting unimaginable physical and emotional harm, and profiting from pain,” St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell said.
Last week's operation was not the first time authorities conducted a sex trafficking sting operation that coincided with a major sporting event. This year's Super Bowl in Atlanta resulted in 169 arrests.