Nearly 40 missing children rescued during Georgia sex trafficking bust

More than 2 dozen children rescued in human trafficking bust

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.

[RELATED: ‘We’re here for you:’ Marshal describes moments he rescued 17-year-old victim of sex trafficking in Georgia bust]

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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

8 men arrested during undercover sex trafficking sting