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US police locate 123 missing children in Michigan during one-day sex trafficking operation

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US police locate 123 missing children

Law enforcement authorities in the US state of Michigan have found more than 120 missing children in a major one-day sex trafficking operation.

The effort, which took place at the end of last month, resulted in the location of 123 minors, who were interviewed about potentially being sexually victimised or used in a sex trafficking ring during the time they were away from home.

Investigators from a number of local law enforcement agencies, including the US Marshals Service and the Detroit Missing Child Recovery Unit, identified three possible cases of sex trafficking during the operation, which was the first if its kind to be carried out in the region.

Operation MISafeKid was launched to locate the 301 children that had been reported missing in the area following weeks of investigations, and placed an emphasis on those who may have fallen victim to sex traffickers.

One homeless teenager located during the operation was taken by police back to their command post after it emerged he had not eaten for three days.

He was then transferred to specialist child protection officers for aftercare.

The operation also resulted in the discovery of information relating to the whereabouts of two missing children in Texas and one in Minnesota, which the US Marshals Service is now actively investigating.

Investigators began assessing files related to missing child cases prior to the beginning of the operation, gathering information on locations officers should visit during the effort.

In a statement, the US Marshals Service said: “The Eastern District of Michigan is fully committed to assisting state and local agencies with locating and recovering missing children and the prevention of their falling victim to sex trafficking.

“The Detroit Missing Child Recovery Unit is tasked with investigating and recovering missing children upon request by a law enforcement agency currently attempting to locate a missing child. The message to the missing children and their families that we wish to convey is that we will never stop looking for you.”

Back in March, US anti-slavery charity Polaris revealed that reports of human trafficking received by its national hotline and SMS service rose by 13% last year, with the majority of calls relating to concerns that victims were being forced to sell sex against their will.

Of the 10,615 victims of trafficking or modern slavery identified by Polaris last year, 2,762 were children.

One of top five risk factors identified by Polaris among victims of human trafficking last year was involvement in the child welfare system.

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IIPA: US core copyright industries made $1.3 trillion across 2017

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A new report published yesterday by the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) has revealed that the US core copyright industries generated $1.3 trillion last year, accounting for 6.85% of the American economy.

Core copyright industries are defined by the IIPA as wholly engaged in the creation, production, performance, exhibition, communication or distribution and sale of copyright-protected material.

Total copyright industries, which are defined as being linked to copyright-protected material, generated more than $2.2 trillion last year, accounting for 11.59% of the US economy, the study found.

Between 2014 and 2017, the core copyright industries grew by an aggregate rate of 5.23%, more than twice the rate of the US economy over the same period.

According to the report, sales of select US copyright products in overseas markets rose to $191.2 billion last year, with foreign sales of selected copyright industry sectors exceeding the foreign sales of other major US industries such as electronics, agriculture, chemicals, aerospace and pharmaceuticals.

“These consistently positive trends solidify the status of the US copyright industries as a key engine of growth for the US economy as a whole,” the report concluded.

“As new technologies support the development of new distribution methods for legitimate copyrighted products, the US copyright-based industries represented by the IIPA remain optimistic that economic growth, combined with strong laws, effective enforcement, and steps to open markets, will continue to pave the way for economic growth both in the United States and abroad.”

Earlier this week, the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO)’s latest annual report revealed that the US posted strong growth in trademark filing last year, with American applications rising by 12.6% across the course of 2017.

The study found that China received 1.38 million patent applications last year, which was more than double the number lodged with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), which received 606,956 filings.

More widely, the report showed that the global demand for intellectual property (IP) tools reached record highs in 2017, with China leading the way by filing for patents, trademarks, industrial designs and other IP rights.

Unveiling the report, WIPO Director General Francis Gurry said: “Demand for IP protection is rising faster than the rate of global economic growth, illustrating that IP-backed innovation is an increasingly critical component of competition and commercial activity.

“In just a few decades, China has constructed an IP system, encouraged home-grown innovation, joined the ranks of the world’s IP leaders – and is now driving worldwide growth in IP filings.”

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European crackdown on ‘Ndrangheta mafia clan results in over 90 arrests

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European crackdown on 'Ndrangheta mafia clan

A Europe-wide crackdown on the activities of Italy’s ‘Ndrangheta mafia clan has resulted in the arrest of scores of suspected members of the feared group.

The Europol-supported Operation Pollino yesterday saw law enforcement officials in Belgium, Germany, Italy, Luxemburg and the Netherlands launch a series of early-morning coordinated raids that resulted in the detention of at least 90 suspects, and the seizure of over three tonnes of cocaine and 140kgs of ecstasy.

In a statement, Europol said the operation was the largest of its kind ever to have taken place in Europe, involving hundreds of police officers and the deployment of a number of special intervention units.

Police said they had detained a number of high-ranking members of the ‘Ndrangheta clan during the day of action, and that they expect the operation will result in the confiscation of criminal assets worth millions of euros.

Slightly under half of those detained were attested in Italy, while law enforcement officers in Germany carried more than 60 raids on the day, arresting 14 suspects.

According to Eurojust – the European judicial cooperation body involved, the operation had been underway since 2016.

Commenting on the success of the operation, Filippo Spiezia, Vice-President of Eurojust and National Member for Italy, said: ‘Today, we send a clear message to organised crime groups across Europe.

“They are not the only ones able to operate across borders: so are Europe’s judiciary and law enforcement communities.

“By working together and using the unique tools at our disposal in the EU, such as the possibility to form a Joint Investigation Team and with the practical support through EU agencies like Eurojust and Europol, we are able to detect, investigate and prosecute this kind of serious, organised crime.”

While the ‘Ndràngheta mafia clan originates from the south of Italy, it has grown to become an international criminal organisation that is now thought to operate all over the world, with interests in countries spanning from Canada to Australia.

The network is said to establish itself in new territories by first starting legitimate businesses to act as cover for its illegal activities.

Having done so, members of the group then set about taking control of local drugs markets and other illicit trades.

The ‘Ndrangheta then invests the profits from its illegal activities in further additional legitimate businesses, helping the organisation to strengthen its base in the countries in to which it chooses to expand into.

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LA investigators arrest three men in connection with multi-million dollar recycling scam

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multi-million dollar recycling scam

Police in Los Angeles have arrested three men on suspicion of being involved in a recycling fraud conspiracy that saw them rake in more than $16 million.

The gang members are said to have defrauded California’s Beverage Container Recycling Program by attempting to import drinks containers sold in Arizona into California to be traded in for their recycle value.

California’s Department of Justice named those arrested as trucking firm owner Miguel Bustillos, driver Anthony Sanchez and Amaury Avila-Medina, who is suspected of having acted as a broker for the gang.

After being arrested last month, all three men were charged with felony recycling fraud, conspiracy and grand theft.

The men’s detention was the result of a five-month operation that also led to the seizure of over 12.6 tonnes of empty drinks containers from a collection yard in Phoenix that investigators believe was due to be transported to  California and cashed in for their recycle value.

The drink containers confiscated during the probe had a potential redemption value of nearly $42,000.

Prosecutors allege the defendants’ company, which was named Bustillos’ Trucking, was operated solely as a front for the recycling scam, which is said to have lasted for around three years.

In a statement, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra commented: “California’s recycling program is one of many publicly-funded programs used to incentivize better treatment of our environment and communities.

“Those who choose to undercut these efforts to protect and improve our community will be apprehended.

“My office will continue to work with law enforcement agencies across state lines to detect and stop criminal activity, and hold perpetrators accountable.”

Recycling centres that participate in California’s CalRecycle programme are responsible for ensuring that only eligible bottles and cans that are sold in the state can be cashed in.

Back in September, the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery announced that it had detained eight suspects who had allegedly tried to defraud the state’s Beverage Container Recycling Program by smuggling out-of-state empty drinks containers into California.

The investigation that resulted in the suspets’ arrests led to the recovery of almost 25.5 tonnes of used drinks containers that were being prepared for recycling.

Speaking at the time, CalRecycle Director Scott Smithline said. “Those attempting to cash in on out-of-state containers and steal CRV funds from California consumers should know we have agents and staff working diligently to disrupt these schemes and protect public funds.”

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