According to a press release from the U.S. Marshals Service, the recovery of the children was part of the agency’s “Operation Not Forgotten 2021,” a two-week operation led by the U.S. Marshals Service in the metro Atlanta area. The USMS’s Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force (SERFTF), the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), and Georgia state and local agencies also assisted during the operation.
“Of the 20 recovered, 16 of the children were suspected victims of sex trafficking,” the U.S. Marshals Service said in a statement. “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.”
According to the press release, the U.S. Marshals Service and the Danbury Police Department in Connecticut also arrested a man on Wednesday who was suspected of assault against a minor. The man, identified as 35-year-old Wayne Marcell, was charged with first-degree sexual assault and risk of injury to a minor.
The press release noted that SERFTF embedded members of the Georgia Attorney General’s Office with U.S. Marshals Service teams “to consider potential prosecutions as the marshals recovered children who were known or suspected victims of child sexual exploitation and child sex trafficking.”
In response to the recovery of the 20 children, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr said in a statement that, “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.”
U.S. Marshals Missing Child Unit Chief Darby Kirby said in the statement that “Everyone who participated in the op played a vital role in recovering these children.”
Kirby continued, “I strongly believe this model is the most effective example of how we as an agency should be approaching this mission.”
According to the U.S. Marshals Service, a similar operation was conducted last August, in what the agency called “Operation Not Forgotten.”
The U.S. Marshals Service said in a previous news release that “Operation Not Forgotten” led to the “rescue of 26 children, the safe location of 13 children and the arrest of nine criminal associates.”
Newsweek reached out to the U.S. Marshals Service for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.