Special Report

20 Biggest Crime Stories of the Year

Source: Photo by Logan Riely / Getty Images

169 arrests in sex trafficking sting ahead of Super Bowl
> Date: Jan. 31

A joint effort between local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies resulted in the arrest of 169 people on sex trafficking charges. The arrests were made in Atlanta during the days leading up to the Super Bowl and included 26 alleged traffickers and 34 people accused of trying to have sex with minors. Several sex trafficking victims were rescued as a part of the police effort.

Source: United States Department of Homeland Security

Drug lord El Chapo convicted
> Date: Feb. 12

In a New York federal district court, Mexican drug lord Joaquín Guzmán — commonly known as El Chapo — was found guilty of 10 federal criminal counts, including engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise; conspiracy to launder money from drug sales; international distribution of cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and other drugs; and use of firearms.

Guzmán has been involved in the drug trade for decades — he became the leader of the Sinaloa Pacific Cartel in the 1980s. Though he has been held in maximum security prisons in Mexico before, he has escaped each time. Guzmán claims to have killed between 2,000 and 3,000 people. He now faces a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Source: Paul Marotta / Getty Images

College admissions scandal
> Date: March 12

On March 12, the Justice Department announced charges in the biggest college-admission scam in the history of the nation. The scandal exposed how far wealthy and well-connected parents are willing to go to get their children into the nation’s most prestigious universities.

Among those caught up in the scandal were actresses Lori Loughlin as well as Felicity Huffman and her husband, fashion mogul Mossimo Giannulli, who pleaded not guilty to bribery charges for allegedly paying an admissions consultant $500,000 to create a bogus sports profile for their daughter to help her get into USC. Huffman was sentenced to 14 days in prison for paying thousands of dollars to have her daughter’s SAT scores falsely boosted.

Source: TARIK KIZILKAYA / Getty Images

YouTube star charged with child abuse
> Date: March 20

An Arizona woman was accused of neglecting and physically abusing her seven adopted children who were featured in videos on YouTube. The children appeared on a family comedy called “Fantastic Adventures” that received 242 million views and had 800,000 subscribers. YouTube shut down the series amid child abuse allegations.

The incident raised concerns about the lack of oversight in using underage children on the video-sharing platform. Machelle Hobson allegedly denied the children food and water, limited their bathroom visits, and pepper-sprayed them if they did not perform to her standards.

Child actors are protected by legal safeguards with strict rules regarding the number of hours they work in the television and motion picture industries, but the standards have not been outlined for newer media like YouTube. Hobson, who was charged with child abuse, died of natural causes in early November.

Source: Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal

Three historically black churches burned in 10 days
> Date: March 26, April 2 and April 4

In late March and early April 2019, three churches in Louisiana’s St. Landry Parish were burned to the ground: St. Mary Baptist Church, Greater Union Baptist Church, and Mount Pleasant Baptist Church. Each church had a congregation that was predominantly or exclusively black. Months later, suspect Holden James Matthews, a white man, was indicted by a federal grand jury on hate crime and arson charges. If convicted, Matthews could face decades behind bars.

Source: Alex Wong / Getty Images

Robert Mueller investigation
> Date: April 18

Special counsel Robert Mueller was tasked with finding if any connections existed between the Trump campaign and Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. After two years of investigation and 2,800 subpoenas, Mueller found there was no conspiracy and could not conclude that President Donald Trump had obstructed justice.

Mueller also concluded that, though the investigation found links between the Russian government and individuals in the Trump campaign, “the evidence was not sufficient to support criminal charges” of a conspiracy with Russia. Though the report did not find evidence of criminal wrongdoing, it was perhaps the highest profile criminal investigation in the United States in recent memory.