Marshals lead fight to save trafficked women, kids - Albuquerque Journal

Marshals lead fight to save trafficked women, kids

Over the past few months, while many of us were preoccupied with politics and the pandemic, U.S. marshals bravely carried out a series of nationwide operations which rescued hundreds of human trafficking victims in at least seven states. These victimized women, runaway youngsters and children had been enslaved into a dangerous and deadly lifestyle by criminals who used their captives’ bodies to enrich themselves.

I’m betting you probably didn’t hear much about this. In a time when it’s popular to bash anyone with a badge, teams of marshals quietly joined with dozens of other federal, state and local law enforcement officers to liberate these lost souls.

Not only were victims saved during these sweeps, their captors were arrested and charged with multiple felonies that could mean years in prison. These raids, with names like “Operation Not Forgotten” and “Operation Patriot,” were carried out in places you would think were relatively safe.

In Ohio — primarily in Toledo, Cleveland and Columbus – “Operation Autumn Hope” recently freed 109 trafficking survivors, including 46 children. Among the 179 suspects arrested were both captors and johns looking to buy sex, often with a minor. That operation followed the August rescue of another 25 children under the age of 18.

In the same state, but not connected to the marshals’ operations, a former Portsmouth city councilman and attorney was recently arrested and charged with 18 felony counts of promoting and compelling the prostitution of nearly 30 women, several of whom faced drug charges and came to him seeking legal representation. Michael Mearan, 74, now faces up to 70 years in prison.

The Cincinnati Enquirer published an investigation into Mearan’s activities last year, reporting that for decades he had supplied his young female clients with drugs “in exchange for and as an incentive to participate in acts of prostitution.” One woman who worked for Mearan was found dead of “multiple traumas” in 2013, another woman has been missing since that same year.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said the message should be loud and clear, “Don’t buy sex in Ohio!”

This is not a problem unique to the Buckeye State. If you think this couldn’t be happening in your area, realize the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says incidents of child sex trafficking have been reported in all 50 states.

In Georgia, “Operation Not Forgotten,” carried out by U.S. marshals and a task force of federal, state and local agencies, recently located 39 missing children aged 3 to 17. Many were victims of sex trafficking. Nine suspects were arrested.

In Oklahoma, “Operation Triple Beam” stretched over two months. Ultimately, 262 people were arrested, mostly gang members – including six murder suspects – and five missing children were discovered. The kids are now in protective custody.

In Fort Bend County, Texas, near Houston, “Operation Patriot” resulted in the rescue of five human trafficking victims and the arrest of 46 suspects, both those who offered up the victims and those who paid for sex. District Attorney Brian Middleton warned authorities will continue to be “relentless” in their pursuit of criminals on both the “supply” and the “demand” side of this crime.

In Missouri, 2020 year-to-date, there have been 36 rescues and 106 arrests. The latest case stemmed from suspicious incidents at an I-70 truck stop in tiny Oak Grove, east of Kansas City. Local police were able to rescue 10 women and three small children who are now in state care. The Missouri attorney general says his next sex trafficking target is Missouri’s illicit massage industry.

In September in southern Indiana, U.S. marshals rescued eight missing and exploited children. On Nov. 1, marshals helped recover 27 missing and endangered kids in Virginia.

Sex trafficking doesn’t just happen in faraway countries. It is happening right here in the United States to the most innocent and vulnerable among us.

The U.S. Marshals Service, established in 1789, is the nation’s oldest federal law enforcement agency. In 2015, the service was authorized to assist in locating and recovering missing children. Today, the service says its state-by-state operations to cripple this modern-day slave trade are ongoing.

It’s easy to miss law enforcement’s good works. I didn’t want that to happen with this mission.; email to

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email

Nativo Sponsored Content

Ad Tango

taboola desktop


Feds need to finally get it together on marijuana ...
Quick. Do you know if marijuana ... Quick. Do you know if marijuana is legal in your state? Is it approved for medical, or even recreati ...
Soft-peddling root cause of murder won't stop it
Sad to say, we keep killing ... Sad to say, we keep killing each other. New FBI statistics show that, even though we practiced wides ...
The nation's fixation on the search for Gabby Petito
There are hundreds of thousands of ... There are hundreds of thousands of people reported missing in the United States each year. Last year ...
UNM, city join to spur NM entrepreneurship
ABQnews Seeker
The University of New Mexico and ... The University of New Mexico and the City of Albuquerque are partnering on a new "Right to Start" in ...
Should we honor a killer's every last request - ...
A medium rare rib eye steak, ... A medium rare rib eye steak, a baked potato with butter and sour cream, an iceberg lettuce salad, ga ...
CRIME AND JUSTICE: Do we need more - or ...
Media has too many knee-jerk reactions ... Media has too many knee-jerk reactions to possible 'hate crimes'
Once again, history matters and so does political reality
Here we go again! In the ... Here we go again! In the aftermath of the mismanaged U.S. military pullout in Afghanistan, calls to ...
NM wind project of historic size nearly complete
Renewable power developer Pattern Energy is ... Renewable power developer Pattern Energy is nearing completion of a mammoth wind project in east cen ...
Clock is ticking on ways to fix the US ...
This column is not about relitigating ... This column is not about relitigating the 2020 election. Joseph Biden is the duly certified U.S. pre ...