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Ahead of Super Bowl XLVIII, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Thursday announced a major prostitution and sex-trafficking bust.
The sting operation, called "Operation Out of Bounds," began 11 months ago, but the arrests were strategically timed to raise awareness of the issue of sex trafficking before the Super Bowl, reports The New York Times.
The sporting event is reportedly a notorious magnet for the sex trade. But is it true?
New York law enforcement zeroed in on a high-end prostitution ring that reportedly advertised its services on public-access cable TV and sent frequent text-message marketing blasts to customers about "party packs" of cocaine and sex, reports The Times. Indeed, drugs and sex are a popular combination in prostitution rings.
Investigators say they identified $3 million worth of credit-card transactions stemming from sex and drug sales. According to Schneiderman, it's "a staggering number for an enterprise like this" because most transactions in the illegal sex industry are paid with cash.
Of the 18 suspects charged in the case, more than half were under arrest Thursday, including the alleged primary ringleader Hyun Ok Yoonung, a Long Island woman who operated under the code name "Beige," reports ESPN.
Texas Attorney General Gregg Abbot famously dubbed the Super Bowl "the single largest human trafficking incident in the United States," CBS News reports.
With the big game taking place at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, it's telling that a notorious website's escort section for Northern New Jersey and New York City lists several "Super Bowl specials," according to CBS News.
However, a number of anti-trafficking organizations balk at the notion that prostitution accompanies major sporting events.
According to a 2011 report by the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women, "there is no evidence that large sporting events cause an increase in trafficking for prostitution." The CEO of the major anti-trafficking organization Polar Project expressed similar views, according to CBS News.
Nevertheless, several of these groups laud law enforcement's efforts because they're changing the way trafficked individuals are perceived -- namely, as victims of force and coercion rather than criminal free agents.
Case in point: the prostitutes discovered from the "Operation Out of Bounds" sting operation were offered social services in lieu of arrest, the Times reports.
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