The U.S. Marshals Service in Iowa partnered with federal, state and local agencies to find 21 missing juveniles and return seven of them.
‘Operation Homecoming” focused on recovering vulnerable, critically missing children from across Iowa, according to a U.S. Marshals Service news release Tuesday.
Marshals in the Northern and Southern Districts of Iowa worked with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation’s Missing Persons Clearinghouse to locate the children, between the ages of 4 and 17, according to the news release.
This age group includes some of the most at-risk and challenging recovery cases in the area, based on risk factors such as exposure to narcotics, child exploitation, physical or sexual abuse and medical or mental health conditions, officials said.
Operation Homecoming located missing Iowa children in nine states: Arizona, Nebraska, Minnesota, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, Illinois, Ohio and Indiana.
The operation also resulted in the arrests of two people, the seizure of illegal narcotics and two firearms, and four independent human trafficking investigations, which have been referred to the appropriate investigative agencies.
‘For these kids on the run, life on the streets can be extremely dangerous and unforgiving,” said Deputy Marshal Christopher Siemens, Missing Child Unit liaison in the Northern District of Iowa. ‘Often they have no financial resources to sustain themselves, resulting in the selling of sex acts as a means to survive.”
U.S. Marshal Doug Strike said the message to those missing is ‘we will never stop looking for you.”
Deputy U.S. Marshal Scott Cannon, missing child investigations coordinator for the U.S. Southern District of Iowa, said the goal ‘is not only to safely recover Iowa’s missing children, but also to aid our local and state partners who work these cases daily.”
The operation results include:
A central Iowa man was charged with harboring a runaway and implicated in sex trafficking, and a second man was later charged based on the results of the same investigation.
An Iowa missing child was found in Arizona after a family’s relentless legal battle. The child was taken in 2017 by a family member who didn’t have custody. The child had been relocated and hidden from law enforcement for years.
Exploited teens were located and returned to Iowa. In January, marshals in Illinois found a missing 14-year-old from central Iowa after investigators discovered ads featuring the juvenile involved in sex trafficking.
Last year, another missing 17-year-old was taken from central Iowa and was a victim of human trafficking in Mississippi and Tennessee. Marshals tracked her to a home in Mississippi and she was brought back to Iowa.
Iowa marshals continue to search for Fredrick Workman, 15, last seen in Des Moines in August 2013, and are offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information that leads to his location. Anyone with information is urged to contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-843-5678.
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The seal of the Department of Justice hangs on the wall of the waiting room of U.S. Attorney’s Office in Cedar Rapids. (Gazette file photo)