Louisiana operation recovers 16 missing children, uncovers alleged sex trafficking

Staff Report

A three-month U.S. Marshals operation in Louisiana, known as Operation Fresh Start, resulted in the recovery of 16 missing children, the arrest of five suspects, and uncovered alleged sex trafficking in some of the cases.

According to a news release from the U.S. Marshals Service Eastern District, several Louisiana law enforcement agencies and out-of-state entities were involved in the operation. 

The release highlighted several cases:

  • One case involved a 5-year-old girl and 7-year-old boy who were taken by a non-custodial parent. The Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office issued a felony warrant for the mother of the children for kidnapping and she allegedly made attempts to avoid arrest. The children were reportedly taken to the Ft. Lauderdale, Florida area.
  • A 14-year-old girl identified as a runaway for the New Orleans Police Department was recovered with several adults at a location in Fayetteville, Georgia. Her family was concerned about her possible involvement in sex trafficking and was believed to be with an older male in Florida. Investigators believe the teenager may have traveled to the Jacksonville, Florida area.
  • Two male teenagers who escaped the New Orleans Youth Study Center were recovered. Investigators said they are suspected in a carjacking of an elderly woman. Both were taken into custody in New Orleans.
  • A 15-year-old Ouachita Parish girl diagnosed with schizophrenia reportedly wrestled free from restraints and jumped from an ambulance en route to Children's Hospital in New Orleans. She was later recovered at a location in New Orleans.
  • A 14-year-old runaway and previous victim of sexual assault was recovered in Addis, a community in the Baton Rouge area, and returned to St. Tammany Parish.
  • A 1-year-old boy was reportedly abducted by his father after his father shot and killed the child's grandfather in New Orleans. The child was safely located and recovered. 
  • A 16-year-old girl was reported missing by her father after she reportedly ran away with her 2-year-old son, who the missing child's father was the legal guardian of. Both the teenager and her son were found and recovered in the Bronx, New York.
  • A 2-year-old boy who had been reportedly kidnapped by a family member was found after a canvass of an area in New Orleans. The child was returned safely to his mother.

"I am very proud of the cooperative work done by all the agencies involved in safeguarding at risk children," U.S. Marshal for the Eastern District of Louisiana Scott Illing stated in the release.