15 arrests made in vast human-trafficking operation with ties to Omaha area

Fifteen Asian women have been arrested in connection with a vast human-trafficking operation with ties to the Omaha area.

The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday that cooperation among numerous federal and state law enforcement agencies around the country led to the arrests of the women, whose travels and communications were coordinated by call centers in Florida and California.

Multiple other Asian female “contractors” have been identified, the Sheriff’s Office said. Additional criminal charges could be filed against at least three Asian women or men, known as “owners.”

​The lengthy investigation, “Operation Extended Stay,” was conducted over more than a year, wrapping up April 10, the Sheriff’s Office said.

Investigators said they identified numerous assets tied to the prostitution ring, from bank accounts, safe-deposit boxes, jewelry and gold bullion to investment portfolios, residences and vehicles.

Preliminary estimates put assets earned during the operation at $2 million to $3 million, the Sheriff’s Office said.

The investigation focused on the use of Internet-based websites such as Backpage and City Vibe, which offered erotic massage and escort services. The ads served as covers for prostitution services offered in dozens of U.S. cities, the Sheriff’s Office said. The profits were funneled to several key Asian-based stakeholders in the United States.

Search warrants were served in Omaha; Bakersfield, California; Los Angeles; Salt Lake City; Orlando; Lafayette, Louisiana; St Louis; and Kansas City, Missouri, the Sheriff’s Office said.

Also involved in the investigation were the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

Locally, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, the Nebraska State Patrol and the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office conducted surveillance, prepared subpoenas and search warrants and provided analysis of a communications and financial network supporting the operation, officials said.

Officials said law enforcement agencies thanked Creighton University and members of a team participating in the Creighton Study on Human Trafficking for their assistance in the case.

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