‘Critically missing' children found

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The U.S. Marshals Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force worked with other agencies to help recover more than two dozen missing children ranging in age from 4 to 17.

From April 8 to the 19, the U.S. Marshals, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and metro Atlanta law enforcement officers directly recovered 16 children and arrested 8 criminal associates, officials said.  Officials said the effort was called Operation “Empty Nest.”

According to the U.S. Marshals, the two-week initiative was the culmination of months of planning between the agencies. Throughout that time, they recovered an additional 11 children.  Officials said the children were considered to be some of the most at-risk cases because of high-risk factors as sexual abuse, physical abuse, child sex trafficking, and child exploitation.

“The Marshals are committed to assisting state and local agencies with locating and recovering endangered missing children to help prevent them from falling victim to crimes of violence and exploitation,” said SERFTF Commander James Joyner. “The message that we wish to convey to the missing children and their families is that we will find you.”

Officials said the operation led to filing nine additional charges and clearing seven arrest warrants.

DeKalb County Police arrested Zicieus Beasley and Michael Warren in connection with the recovery of a 16-year-old girl.  Both men are charged with interference of custody.  Warren also faces weapons charges. 

Officers said Empty Nest is the first missing child operation by the task force in the United States.  It comes after a recent change in the law that allows them to work on missing children cases. 

"We want to show them that yes, there are people out here in the community that do care," explained Senior Inspector Alex Camacho.  "That they're not throwaways."

During the operation, law enforcement also seized five guns and an unknown amount of drugs.

RELATED: 16 missing children found in U.S. Marshals operation