Final Four sex trafficking sting operation leads officials to 58 arrests in Minneapolis

USATSI

Almost five dozen people face felony charges after a Minnesota Department of Public Safety task force conducted an undercover sex trafficking sting operation during the Final Four in Minneapolis.

Investigators with the department's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) posed as minors and sex buyers as part of the operation, according to a Public Safety release, and it led to 58 arrests -- 47 on possible charges of solicitation of a minor and 11 on possible charges of sex trafficking and promotion of prostitution.

Additionally, the task force rescued 28 victims, including one minor, from trafficking situations, officials said.

During the operation, suspects chatted on several social media platforms with undercover agents and investigators ... 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 told Sports Illustrated

The sting operation, which included 33 different criminal justice agencies, 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.

The Final Four sting was not the first major operation to uncover trafficking crimes during a major sporting event. During Super Bowl LII, also held in Minneapolis, Twin Cities law enforcement arrested 94 men as part of multiple undercover stings.

CBS Sports Writer

Cody Benjamin joined CBS Sports in 2017 after time spent with SB Nation, various newspapers and his own Eagles outlet. Raised around the Philly sports scene, he now lives in Minnesota with his wife and... Full Bio

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