Nearly 40 missing children were rescued in “Operation Not Forgotten” by the U.S. Marshals Service Missing Child Unit, in conjunction with the agency’s Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and Georgia state and local agencies.
The two-week operation in Atlanta and Macon, Georgia, rescued 39 missing children, with 26 being real rescues and 13 actually identifying their unknown locations.
Law enforcement arrested 9 abductors, with 19 pending warrants, and filed additional charges for alleged crimes related to sex trafficking, parental kidnapping, registered sex offender violations, drugs and weapons possession, and custodial interference.
Atlanta’s WSB-TV 2′s Gwinnett County Bureau Chief Tony Thomas said 20 Atlanta-area counties were scoured in the manhunt.
In a separate report, Thomas interviewed the Marshals and reported more details of the harrowing cases of those rescued.
U.S. Marshal Senior Inspector Josue Rivera told Thomas that the youngest child rescued was three years old and the oldest was 17.
A missing teenager was found hiding in a Rockdale County garage; that girl had been trafficked for sex since she was 12 years old, Rivera said, noting that was the case that stuck out the most to him.
“We had indications she was sexually trafficked,” Rivera said. “She told us she didn’t realize anyone cared enough to look for her. She was thinking we were there to arrest someone else. We told her, ‘We’re here for you.’”
Rivera said that of the 39 children rescued, nine were from Fulton County, nine were from DeKalb, eight were from Gwinnett and three children were rescued from both Clayton and Cobb counties.
WSB-TV also published the names and charges of those arrested:
Zachary Bailey Arrested in Columbus, GA – Human trafficking, Enticing of a Minor for Indecent Purposes, and Enticement of a Minor for Solicitation
Trayon Moore – Dekalb County – Sex Trafficking and Probation Violation warrants
James Garcia – Arrested at a Motel in Clearwater, Fl, with a missing three-year old – Warrants out of Whitfield County, GA – Aggravated Child Molestation, Aggravated Sodomy and Incest with a Minor
Moradeyo Amos Bandele – Arrested in Port St Lucie, FL – Warrant for Rape out of Conyers, GA
Stanson Causey – Arrested in Jasper, GA – Registered Sex Offender arrested for Probation Violation
Kirk Waters – Arrested in Newton County, GA, at the garage where 17-year-old victim was found – Felon in Possession of a Firearm
Trevonte Shareef – Arrested in Newton County, GA, at the garage where the sex trafficked teen victim was found – Interference with custody and obstruction
Faye Smith – Arrested at a motel in Clearwater, Fl – Warrant for Probation Violation
Sally Garcia – Arrested at a motel in Clearwater, Fl – Interference with Child Custody
The arrests come in the context of greater coordination and information sharing across government agencies here and abroad to end child trafficking. The Department of Justice has closed loopholes to unlock encrypted messaging systems with warrants to end their bulletproof use by traffickers; closed the holes in the border where international trafficking once thrived and allocated dedicated funds to provide survivors with homes and living expenses when they have no families to return to.
The step up in arrests also as comes as elite child abusers face justice and the public concern over these lost children becomes a national priority. The 2017 ‘Executive Order Blocking the Property of Persons Involved in Serious Human Rights Abuse or Corruption’ finally gave teeth to the threats of persecution, allowing those at the top of the child abuse pyramid to face personal devastation with the forfeiture of all of their assets.
The initiative in Georgia was the culmination of several months of planning and coordination between the USMS, NCMEC, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Georgia Office of the Attorney General, Georgia Department of Family and Children Services, Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
This relatively new mission for the U.S. Marshals has seen two large scale operations recently and several smaller ones around the country.
“The future should see many similar operations throughout the United States as the Missing Child Unit ramps up operations using the man hunting skills, in which the Marshals specialize, to locate and rescue missing minors,” the Marshals said in a statement.
Donald Washington, Director of the Marshals Service: “The U.S. Marshals Service is fully committed to assisting federal, state, and local agencies with locating and recovering endangered missing children, in addition to their primary fugitive apprehension mission. The message to missing children and their families is that we will never stop looking for you.”
“The message to missing children and their families is that we will never stop looking for you.”
Marshals said these missing children were considered to be some of the most at-risk and challenging recovery cases in the area, based on indications of high-risk factors such as victimization of child sex trafficking, child exploitation, sexual abuse, physical abuse, and medical or mental health conditions. Other children were located at the request of law enforcement to ensure their well being. Investigators were able to confirm each child’s location in person and assure their safety and welfare.
The Marshals established a Missing Child Unit to oversee and manage the implementation of its enhanced authority under the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015, which enhanced their authority to assist federal, state, and local law enforcement with the recovery of missing, endangered or abducted children, regardless of whether a fugitive or sex offender was involved.
In 2019, the Marshals helped recover 295 missing children based on requests for assistance from law enforcement and has contributed to the recovery of a missing child in three out of four of the cases received. Additionally, of the missing children recovered, 66 percent were recovered within seven days of the USMS assisting with the case. Since its partnership with NCMEC began in 2005, the agency has recovered more than 1,800 missing children.
“When we track down fugitives, it’s a good feeling to know that we’re putting the bad guy behind bars. But that sense of accomplishment is nothing compared to finding a missing child,” said Darby Kirby, Chief of the Missing Child Unit.
“It’s hard to put into words what we feel when we rescue a missing child, but I can tell you that this operation has impacted every single one of us out here. We are working to protect them and get them the help they need.”
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp saluted the successful operation via Twitter:
For the Marshals, Shane T. McCoy photographed the operation.