A series of raids conducted by U.S. Marshals in Georgia resulted in the recovery of 20 missing and endangered children, with over a dozen of the victims suspected of being sex trafficking victims, authorities announced.
The mission dubbed “Operation Not Forgotten 2021” was led in the metro Atlanta area over a two-week period and was the third of its kind, with the previous operation dating back to August 2020.
The Office of the Attorney General partnered with the U.S. Marshal’s Missing Child Unit (USMS) and Southeast Regional Task Force (SERFTF), the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), and state and local agencies during the operation.
“Our Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit was proud to again partner with our local, state, and federal partners on Operation Not Forgotten 2021, and we appreciate the U.S. Marshals Service Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force for coordinating this initiative,” Georgia’s Attorney General Christopher M. Carr, a Republican, said in a press release.
“Being embedded throughout the duration of this op allows our prosecutors and investigators to build the strongest possible cases against buyers and traffickers and allows our victim advocate to ensure those rescued get the critical rehabilitative resources that they need,” he added. “We will continue to find strategic opportunities like this to recover victims and put criminals behind bars.”
The identities of the 20 child victims—of which 16 are suspected to be a victim of sex trafficking—are withheld for privacy reasons.
In a separate statement published by U.S. Marshals on Wednesday, they announced that 35-year-old Wayne Marcell of Connecticut was taken into custody at 8:30 a.m. during a raid that stemmed from “Operation Not Forgotten 2021.”
In the process of Marcell’s arrest, another “trafficked and endangered child” was recovered, authorities said. The suspect has been charged with first-degree sexual assault and risk of injury to a minor.
“The U.S. Marshals Service in the District of Connecticut would like to commend the hard work and dedication of all the law enforcement professionals involved in this case,” said Lawrence Bobnick, U.S. Marshal for the District of Connecticut. “With its nationwide reach and investigative focus, the USMS appreciates opportunities such as this case to rescue innocent victims from their abductors.”
USMS Chief Darby Kirby said he is a strong supporter of the model the agency has used during the missions, adding that the whole team involved in the operation played a vital role in recovering the missing children.
Since 2015, operations conducted by federal authorities with the assistance of the USMS have resulted in the recovery of more than 1,800 missing children, the agency said.