ATLANTA — More than three dozen children are now safe after being rescued during a sex trafficking bust involving state and federal agents.
Channel 2′s Gwinnett County Bureau Chief Tony Thomas learned that the bust, dubbed “Operation Not Forgotten” spanned 20 counties around metro Atlanta.
For two weeks, U.S.Marshals Fugitive Hunters and other agencies scoured north and middle Georgia looking for missing and exploited children. In all, 26 endangered children were recovered and another 13 missing children were found.
U.S. Marshals Service Director Donald Washington said that authorities fear the children were all already or potential victims of sex trafficking.
“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,” authorities said. “Other children were located at the request of law enforcement to ensure their wellbeing.”
The operation spanned across 20 Georgia counties. Sources said children were found in Gwinnett, Fulton, Clayton, and Forsyth counties among other places. Nine suspects were arrested.
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The suspects are now behind bars as state prosecutors step in to handle the cases and medical and social workers focus on helping traumatized kids.
“One missing child is worth thousands, in my mind, of fugitives that we go out and get,” Washington said.
Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr said authorities will measure their success on “how many lives that we have saved and that will have a new and fresh start.”
Other major cities across the country have similar operations underway. Most of them have yet to be completed.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp issued a statement about the bust via Twitter Thursday night.
The people arrested include:
Moradeyo Amos Bandele – Arrested in Port St Lucie, FL – Warrant for Rape out of Conyers, GA
Trayon Moore – Dekalb County – Sex Trafficking and Probation Violation warrants
James Garcia - Arrested at a Motel in Clearwater, Fl - Warrants out of Whitfield County, GA - Aggravated Child Molestation, Aggravated Sodomy and Incest with a Minor
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
Zachary Bailey Arrested in Columbus, GA – Human trafficking, Enticing of a Minor for Indecent Purposes, and Enticement of a Minor for Solicitation
Stanson Causey – Arrested in Jasper, GA – Registered Sex Offender arrested for Probation Violation
Kirk Waters – Arrested in Newton County, GA – Felon in Possession of a Firearm
Trevonte Shareef – Arrested in Newton County, GA – Interference with custody and obstruction