PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The FBI rounded up suspected local sex traffickers and child predators in Operation Independence Day.
During a three-day span in July, Pittsburgh FBI agents arrested two suspected sex traffickers in our area, including the woman known as the Monroeville Madam.READ MORE: Hearing For Alleged Capitol Rioter Jorden Mink Delayed After He Contracted COVID-19
They also arrested seven adults who were pursuing minors online.
The arrests prompted a warning from the FBI.
“The public needs to understand that even if you don’t think these kind of crimes are happening in your neighborhood, I’m here to tell you that they are,” said Tim Wolford, a supervisory special agent with the FBI.
“It’s important that parents have open and constructive dialogue with their children about what they’re doing online with their phones and the dangers that are out there,” Wolford said.READ MORE: American Lung Association’s 'State Of The Air' Report Ranks Pittsburgh Ninth For Worst Air In U.S.
The FBI said online predators don’t just try to win the confidence of vulnerable minors.
They sometimes blackmail them.
“Once that minor sends an explicit picture, that’s used as blackmail against the minor,” Wolford said. “They are told if they don’t send more pictures, they’ll expose them to their parents or their friends.”
Among those arrested was 38-year-old Joseph Hamilton of the North Side. He’s accused of trying to pick up a 13-year-old boy near the T-station at Station Square.
Thomas Schultz, 36, of Bellevue was also arrested after agents nabbed him when they said he tried to meet a 14-year-old outside of Heinz Field.MORE NEWS: U.S. Steel Sets Sights On Carbon Neutrality By 2050
Both men met up with undercover agents.