Below is a follow up report to last Sunday’s article: The Underground Super Bowl Commercial
In an effort to combat the rampant sex trafficking that authorities say has historically accompanied the Super Bowl, a multi-agency task force arrested 85 people during the week leading up to Sunday’s game in New Orleans. Those arrests represented just “the tip of the iceberg” of a growing problem, State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson said at a news conference Thursday.
Operation Innocence Lost, carried out by the New Orleans Police Department, State Police, FBI and Department of Homeland Security, among others, netted arrests on charges of human trafficking, prostitution, pandering, narcotics and weapons charges, authorities said. Fifty-three people were arrested in the New Orleans area, while 32 were nabbed in the Baton Rouge area.
“Any time you have a large influx of tourists in town and they’re spending a lot of money, there’s a criminal element that moves in to take advantage of that,” said Capt. Doug Cain, a State Police spokesman.
Authorities booked at least two men on charges of sex trafficking and rescued five women who were allegedly brought to prostitute in New Orleans against their will. Two were trafficked from Oklahoma; two were brought from Georgia, Cain said.Details on the fifth victim’s story were scarce because she was 17 years old, so she is considered a minor by federal authorities. Her case has launched a federal investigation, Cain said.
In addition to that minor, four other children were rescued in the operation, police said, however they were not themselves being sexually exploited.
Two of the children, ages 10 and 11, were found by New Orleans police officers and state troopers during a sting operation. The children were waiting in a car outside a New Orleans location where their mother was prostituting, Edmonson said.
“The looks in those kids’ eyes was so sad,” Edmonson said at the news conference. “They thought this was normal.”
The children are now in custody of the state Department of Children and Family Services, said Ben Francois, New Orleans regional administrator for DCFS.
The other two children were rescued from a similar situation in Baton Rouge, Cain said.
The FBI will continue to provide services for the victims, said Special Agent In Charge Mike Anderson.
As part of ongoing efforts, investigators with the state attorney general’s office arrested a 28-year-old man on Tuesday accused of seeking an underage prostitute. According to an arrest report, Courtney Allen Comardelle called undercover agents on a cell phone and offered to pay $200 in exchange for sexual acts with an 18-year-old woman and a 16-year-old girl.
He was booked into the Orleans Parish jail on charges of soliciting prostitution and soliciting prostitution of a minor, records show. He was being held Thursday in lieu of $5,000 bond.
The Louisiana Human Trafficking Task operates year-round. Anyone who suspects trafficking can call 1.866.DHS.2ICE.