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'Hold them accountable' | 10 people arrested in human trafficking operation in Texas, officials say

Officials said nine of the twelve victims found were minors.

HOUSTON — Ten people were arrested in a multi-agency operation targeting human trafficking on Houston's infamous Bissonnet Track, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced Friday evening.

The operation was focused on the sex trafficking of minors. ICE said four documented gang members and six gang associates were among those arrested. The charges range from sex trafficking of minors, sex trafficking of minors by force, and conspiracy to sex traffic minors.

“The sex trafficking of minors, and human trafficking as a whole, is one of the fastest growing criminal enterprises in the U.S.,” said Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Houston Special Agent in Charge Mark Dawson. "Approximately one-quarter of all individuals who are being trafficked for sex in the U.S. are minors."

Officials said HSI Houston and its partners in the Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance found a total of 12 victims - nine of them were minors and three were adults.

“Tragically, hundreds more underage sex trafficking victims won’t be rescued because we do not know about them," said FBI Houston acting Special Agent in Charge David Martinez. "Without the public's help, tormented sex trafficking victims remain in the clutches of manipulative criminals who seek only to enrich themselves at the expense of vulnerable juveniles."

HSI asks the public to report any suspected sex trafficking to its toll-free tip line at 866-347-2423.

"Girls as young as 9, 10 and 11 were being sold on that track," said Jacquelyn Aluotto with non-profit No Trafficking Zone. "Even before they went into really clean up Bissonnet, Bissonnet became so lucrative, there's a mini-track called a blade, where girls and less professional girls, victims, go there to make less money for their pimps and traffickers for a quota."

Aluotto said the organization works to help victims and educate agencies on the latest trends in the child sex trade.

"Bissonnet isn't the only track in Houston," she said. "Bissonnet was the most lucrative and notorious."

The following agencies were involved in the operation, among other various agencies:

"The partnership and collaboration among our agencies are instrumental in dismantling of criminal organizations," said Houston Police Chief Troy Finner. "We will continue to do everything within our power to find these perpetrators and hold them accountable to the fullest extent of law to protect our community."

KHOU 11's Matt Dougherty will have a special report on the Bissonnet Track that will air on Tuesday, September 12 at 10 p.m.

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