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Forty-five missing children have been discovered and 179 people have been arrested after a massive sting was launched to find missing kids and to investigate suspected human trafficking operations in Ohio.
The investigation began earlier this month as a joint effort between the U.S. Marshals Service Offices in southern Ohio and southern West Virginia in conjunction with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force, the U.S. Marshals Service said in a Monday press release.
The operation, dubbed “Autumn Hope,” honed in on alleged human trafficking of missing and exploited children in the area, and in the end, they recovered a whopping 45 missing children. Another 20 children were located in a welfare check.
The Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force arrested 179 people in connection with the missing children. In one of the efforts, a “high-risk 15-year old girl who was missing from Cleveland” was found. Investigators said her recovery linked both her and other possible victims to a suspected human trafficker in Columbus. Another 15-year-old, a male, was found. He had two warrants on him as he is a suspect in a murder and multiple shootings.
“My thanks to all personnel who have stepped up for this operation,” Peter C. Tobin, U.S. Marshal for the Southern District of Ohio, said in the press release. “These are the same personnel who hunt down violent fugitives every day. I’m incredibly proud of them and pleased that they were able to apply those same skills to finding missing children. I know Operation Autumn Hope has made a difference in a lot of young lives.”
Just last month, the U.S. Marshals recovered 35 missing teens, between the ages of 13 and 18 from the Cuyahoga County region of Ohio during “Operation Safety Net.” About one-fourth of the cases had been linked to human trafficking or prostitution.
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