NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) - The FBI’s five day nationwide underage prostitution sting recovered 168 underage victims.
“Three juveniles here in Louisiana,” says FBI Agent John Selleck. “One each in New Orleans, Shreveport and Baton Rouge.”
“It’s a very lucrative business so they have a lot of capital,” says one former strip club insider who worked behind the scenes for close to ten years.
He says recruiters target vulnerable kids new to the city, “They catch ‘em young and unaware. They come with a helping hand. But that comes at a cost. At first it`s small favors.”
Selleck says 281 pimps were arrested nationwide, 16 in Louisiana, “They leverage those vulnerabilities against them and they do it effectively.”
As part of the operation, FBI agents focused on hotels, truck stops, casinos and places pimps operate, as well as escort service websites.
“I’m gullible and didn’t have anything else,” says one Bourbon Street dancer who remains nameless. “I just had no money, I had nowhere to stay.”
Now 25, the dancer says she moved to New Orleans from Kansas while still underage and was quickly lured in, “It was either go with him and do what he wants you to do, or have nothing and be broke and be by yourself.”
She says besides the internet, a majority of underage sex crimes are arranged on Bourbon Street, behind closed doors of popular strip clubs, “The pimps who have these girls in the clubs have their 16 or 17 year-olds at home. You don’t have a choice, I was young, very impressionable. I didn’t know anything else. I grew up in a really small town.”
“Before they know it they find themselves in a position they can’t escape it,” says Selleck.
The Bourbon Street dancer says she’s been in that very position, “He would strip me naked and beat me with cell phone charger and stuff like that.”
“We have clubs that do private VIP rooms with Little Mermaid wallpaper,” says the former strip club employee who’s seen firsthand. “People come here to do things that they can’t or won’t do in their own home.”
Those who know the New Orleans sex industry says local policy’s must change just to slow down underage sex crimes, “I don’t think you need to be a dancer or anything in the business until you are 21. if you got to be 21 to enter it you should be 21 to work there.”
“Greatly increase the severity and number of sentences handed out to those who affiliate with any form of juvenile sex crimes,” says the former strip club worker.
Across Louisiana, agents rescued a total of three children, and arrested 16 pimps and 75 prostitutes.
“Typically the juveniles we are recovering are from all different walks of life, of all different ethnicities,” says Selleck. “I’ve never found one that’s been recovered that’s told me it was a fantastic lifestyle.”
“But if we didn’t get you this time,” he adds. “Better look over your shoulder because we’re coming for you.”