BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — Authorities have broken up a major sex-trafficking ring in Colombia that used drugs to force underage boys and girls into prostitution, the chief prosecutor's office said Tuesday.
The operation resulted in the arrest of 11 Colombians in the cities of Armenia, Cartagena and Medellin and the rescue of 55 sex-trafficking victims, one as young as 11.
The prosecutor's office said some of the young people were drugged with ecstasy and cocaine. The ring operated out of clandestine sites and massage parlors, frequently relying on taxi drivers to bring in foreign clients looking for underage sex, prosecutors said.
During the raids, an 11-year-old girl broke down in tears, saying she had been sold for $1,000 because she was a virgin, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency said in a statement.
Colombian officials acted in conjunction with U.S. law enforcement authorities, who arrested a man in the United States who allegedly traveled to Medellin to have sex and film himself with underage prostitutes.
Two U.S. nonprofit groups dedicated to eradicating sexual exploitation of children, Breaking Chains and Underground Railroad, assisted with the case.
All the victims are now in the care of Colombia's child protection agency. The Colombian defendants face between five and 20 years imprisonment if convicted.