US Marshals' operation recovers 16 missing children and uncovers allegations of sex trafficking, agency says

The three-month operation was dubbed "Fresh Start."

(CNN)A three-month operation by the US Marshals Service in Louisiana led to the recovery of 16 missing children, the arrest of five individuals and uncovered allegations of sex trafficking in several of the cases, according to the agency.

The operation, dubbed "Fresh Start," took place in the New Orleans area from January 1 of this year until March 31, according to a news release. It was led by the Missing Child Unit of the US Marshals Service Eastern District of Louisiana New Orleans Task Force.
It ended in the rescue or recovery of 16 missing and endangered children, the agency said. "Based on the operation at least four (4) felony warrant(s) exist for adults suspected of involvement with MCU minors and the USMS New Orleans Task Force is actively pursuing these fugitives," the news release states.
The Marshals Service highlighted several cases in which children were recovered and rescued as part of the collaborative effort. In one case, a 5-year-old girl and a 7-year-old boy were recovered in late January after they were taken by a non-custodial parent, who is their mother.
"The Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office issued a felony warrant for the mother of the children for Kidnapping, and she made active attempts to avoid arrest along the way," the news release states. The mother took the children to the Fort Lauderdale, Florida, area where a task force recovered the children and arrested the mother.
On January 31, a 1-year-old baby abducted in New Orleans by his father who had shot and killed the infant's grandfather was safely located and recovered. The father surrendered to the New Orleans Police Department, according to the release.
In March, a 14-year-old "habitual runaway and previous victim of sexual assault" from St. Tammany Parish was recovered in Addis, Louisiana, with assistance from the West Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office, the release states.
"I am very proud of the cooperative work done by all the agencies involved in safeguarding at risk children. Our Office is proud to be a part of a robust MCU program that took root in New Orleans starting in 2016," US Marshal Scott Illing said in a statement.
"This work is being done with our partners while our office still performs its critical USMS missions (judicial and witness security, managing federal prisoners, violent fugitives' apprehension, sex offender investigations, and service of federal process)," Illing said.
Several other agencies also participated in the operation, including the New Orleans Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the New York Police Department, the news release states.