• Kierstin Tonic

The Georgia Sex Trafficking Ring Busted - Or Was It?

Updated: Sep 19, 2020



On August 29, 2020 major news outlets reported 39 children were rescued by U.S. Marshals during “Operation Not Forgotten”. In a statement by U.S. Marshal Service Director Donald Washington said, “The US 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”. Twenty- six children were said to be “recovered” and 13 “safely located”. Twenty-six warrants and additional charges were filed for sex trafficking, parental kidnapping, and registered sex offender violations.







However, Michael Hobbes from HuffPost pointed out some flaws in the story. No specific information was given about the children and the same information was repeated. The Associated Press, the N.Y. Times, People Magazine, and other news media used the same or a similar headline. The term “safely located” was not explained.


Social media observers also questioned the validity of the story asking why it wasn’t major news. In a Tweet by King Randall I, “How is finding 39 missing children in a double wide trailer here in Georgia NOT the biggest news story in America?”




According to Hobbes’ HuffPost article we were somewhat mislead:


1. It was not a trafficking ring bust. – Operation Not Forgotten was actually a joint effort with state and federal officials to find 78 “critically missing” children. That means they were at risk for being trafficked but could have also been at risk for parental abuse or have medical conditions.

2. There was no trailer. – The news reports lead readers to believe they found a trailer or van full of children. They were not found in one location but several. Per Reuters Fact Check Team, "39 children were found - not in a trailer but in multiple locations in Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Florida, Kentucky and Michigan." Only 2 were together when found. The others were found in over 15 counties. There were no raids reported making this neither and operation or a sting as most readers would believe.

3. Some of the arrests made were the children themselves. – Two were suspects in homicide cases. Eleven were allegedly gang affiliated. Seven warrants were issued for minors. Many were runaways.


Further misconceptions are that trafficking = pimp. This is not always the case. For many of these kids they are trading sex for money, drugs, or a place to stay, i.e. survival. Only 6 of the children found were considered trafficked and are now receiving help from Recovering Hope Center.


Operation Not Forgotten was however still a success. Thirteen kids were found and thirty-nine were removed from bad situations or “recovered”. Twenty-six cases have been closed without the child being recovered. They could have already gone home to their families or their cases were already being handled by CPS (Child Protective Services).


Unfortunately, no other follow up information was found since the Reuter Fact Check and the HuffPost article which can be found here. For the U.S. Marshals report click here.


Author: Kierstin Tonic

Writer, Blogger, Entrepreneur

Novice Cigar Aficionado

Classy Curser

Most importantly, Mommy

IG & FB: @ktonicwrites

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