Browsed by
Category: Operation Underground Railroad

JANUARY IS HUMAN TRAFFICKING AWARENESS MONTH

JANUARY IS HUMAN TRAFFICKING AWARENESS MONTH

4 Ways You Can Help #EndHumanTrafficking 

In 2010, President Barack Obama declared January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Since its founding in 2014 Operation Underground Railroad has celebrated this month as a way to bring justice and awareness to our cause, to end human trafficking worldwide. This January we’d like you to help us!

We’ve provided a few resources, and A CALENDAR, that you can post on your refrigerator, which you can use to help us drive awareness for human trafficking. We encourage you to share your activities using the hashtag #EndHumanTrafficking to help us raise awareness for this cause. Here’s how you can help!

Week 1 (January 1-7): Become an Abolitionist!

The first week of January we’d like you to become an Abolitionist! Becoming an abolitionist is simple. Simply download THIS SIGN, print it out, and write out why you’re an abolitionist! Then share on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or the social network of your choosing using the hashtag #EndHumanTrafficking. We’ll share our favorites on our social media channels!

If you want to really devote yourself to the cause, please make a donation on the OURrescue.org website or wear one of the T-shirts or other merchandise from the O.U.R. Store (which also supports the efforts of Operation Underground Railroad!). We’ve made some special T-shirts just for this month which will be available next week!

Week 2 (January 8-14): Create a Facebook Fundraiser

We’ve launched a new way on our Facebook Page for you to create your own fundraisers right inside Facebook, and it’s really easy to do! We’d like to encourage you to come up with your own creative way to raise funds with your friends.

To create your fundraiser, on the left of Facebook, click “Fundraisers” (you might have to click “See More” under “Explore”). Click “Create Fundraiser”, and in the box to select a non-profit select “Operation Underground Railroad”. Set a goal for how much you want to raise for the week and see what type of creative fundraiser you can share with your friends on Facebook! Use #EndHumanTrafficking to share your progress!

Week 3 (January 15-21): Support the O.U.R. Store

We’d like your help in raising funds and awareness by buying clothing and merchandise you can wear around the house, office, with your friends, and elsewhere to bring awareness to this cause. During the week we’ll have plenty of giveaways. Watch the O.U.R. social media channels for discount codes and more. Check out the O.U.R. Store and purchase your #EndHumanTrafficking merchandise. Then share the merchandise you’ve bought with the hashtag!

Also, on January 21, watch for a very special event we’re planning called “Free at Last”! We’ll post more about this on our social media channels.

Week 4 (January 22-31): Unite in the Fight – Volunteer Week!

This week is about YOU! To help during this week, find ways in YOUR community you can volunteer! Visit our website and sign up to become volunteer and watch the O.U.R. social media channels to find new ways to help. We encourage you to create Facebook Events if you can, and share pictures from your events on social media using the hashtag #EndHumanTrafficking.

As always, we can’t bring awareness to this cause without YOUR help! The month of January is about YOU, and there was never a better time for you to help us, our partners, and others around the world eradicate slavery. These are all our suggestions. Come up with your own ways and share them on social media with the #EndHumanTrafficking hashtag and then follow along and participate with us in the conversation as we all work together in this cause!

To download the calendar (we recommend posting this on your fridge or elsewhere so you don’t forget!), CLICK HERE

To download the “I’m an Abolitionist Because” poster, CLICK HERE

Operation Friend Finder- Malaysia

Operation Friend Finder- Malaysia

Last week, Operation Underground Railroad conducted its first sucessful rescue in Malaysia. Through collaborated efforts with Protect and Save the Children, the Royal Thai Police and Operation Underground Railroad, a 16-year-old Thai girl held in a Malaysian detention center is now reunited with her family in northern Thailand.

This young survivor was tricked into finding work in Malaysia where she ended up being forced to work in a brothel. The brothel was raided and she was then put into a detention center where she was subjected to harsh living conditions affecting her health. With committed determination we were able to arrange for the release of the girl just a few days ago. O.U.R.’s Thailand Coordinator and acting social worker flew to Malaysia to personally escort the girl to her family in Thailand where she will be provided aftercare services.

The healing process begins now. Though it may just be 1 victim, this girl’s life has been changed forever by the hard work of the men and women at O.U.R. and the various partners involved. We are so incredibly grateful she is reunited with her family- just in time for the Holiday season. #OperationFriendFinder

Operation Homeschooled- 10 Arrested in Mesa, Arizona

Operation Homeschooled- 10 Arrested in Mesa, Arizona

Child Prostitution Arrests

Mesa Police Department
Media Relations Office
For Release: December 12, 2016

Mesa Police Detectives completed another operation targeting sexual predators trying to engage in sex acts with underage juveniles. Operation Home Schooled utilized undercover detectives posing as 13 and 14-year-old juveniles, and traffickers, chatting on commonly used internet sites where suspects seek out illegal sex acts. The suspects solicited and/or brokered deals for various sex acts with the minor and were arrested when they responded to the location where they were supposed to meet the minor for sex.

Each year the Mesa Police Department conducts operations of this type in a continuous effort to remove these predators from our community. Suspects willing to solicit sex acts with children are some of the most dangerous criminals in our society. The suspects in the latest operation ranged in age from 66 to 23 years old.

screen-shot-2016-12-12-at-7-13-49-pm

This operation was a collaborative effort between the Mesa Police Department and Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.). We also want to recognize the Hickey Family Foundation, AZ Men, and our local business partners; Empire Southwest and the Treehouse Group, for their invaluable support of this initiative. For more information about human exploitation and trafficking, please visit http://mesaaz.gov/residents/police/departments-divisions/mesa-family-advocacycenter/heat

screen-shot-2016-12-12-at-7-15-30-pm

Saving Souls With Suds

Saving Souls With Suds

 

By Lorayne Mitchelle –

Silicone molds, essential oils, oxide colorants, micas and pigments lurk in every spare corner of the room. Transfer pipettes, digital thermometers, clays, and seeds befriend them.

Other companions include a heat gun, crinkle cutter, loaf cutter, and beveller.  The list concludes with 20-pound blocks of soap base in three classifications: goat’s milk, clear glycerin and ultra clear.

The question is… what storm blew through this home? How and why is it being transformed from something ordinary and orderly into a business born from passion and focus based on the saving operations of Operation Underground Railroad?

The mother of this industrious family, Tracey Carsner, explains how it all began…

I always thought soap making would be fun to try.  I knew nothing about it other than what I’d seen at boutiques and farmers’ markets.  I bought a beginner kit at a craft store and read the directions repeatedly before starting.  Well, my soaps turned out pretty ugly, but I was patient and kept practicing.  Then my mom sent me a sample of a watermelon-inspired soap.  I was determined to branch out from the kit directions and do my own thing.  It turned out fabulous and I was hooked!

Days and weeks after reading many blogs and pinning hundreds of pictures, my collection grew.  I began giving my creations as gifts.  Along with the stunned realization that I made something that was cool, my friends encouraged me to make them available for purchase.  Having been in business before, I knew what an undertaking that path could be.  I shied away from the idea, just enjoying the compliments and the process of designing the next soap.

At this point, Tracey’s two teenage boys, Gabe and Adam, jumped into this project.

Tracey Carsner with sons Gabe and Adam
Tracey Carsner with sons Gabe and Adam

The boys were giving me design advice and mentioning to their friends that I was making these cool soaps. They even showed the products off to their friends when they came over. Gabe and Adam used the bars and gave feedback on fragrance blends and lather consistency. It has been pretty hilarious to see that they have opinions on something that I would normally consider amore feminine interest. I’m especially grateful for their input on the masculine bars I make. I know what women like for men, but it’s not always what men would choose for themselves.

With these two talented cheerleaders in her corner, Tracey thought bringing these products to market might be a little easier.  But it still wasn’t enough to push her into the business venture.  What tipped the scales was deciding to benefit Operation Underground Railroad.

Tracey explains, “I love this organization and all it stands for. O.U.R. Founder Tim Ballard and his helpers and volunteers are performing an act that the mainstream population cannot carry out.  Most of us can only contribute with finances or volunteer our time.  This venture allows our family to do both!”

Saving Soap is now an official creative soap shop, donating 40% of their profits directly to Operation Underground Railroad. They especially hope fans will “like” and “share” Saving Soap’s social media sites so that they can continue to stay busy manufacturing unusual products and contributing profits to O.U.R.

Tracey is direct about her supporting staff when she states, “Without Gabe and Adam, I would definitely not be doing this.  I design and make the soap, handle purchasing, and the business office.”

saving-soap-yellow

Photography and graphic design responsibilities fall to 17-year-old Gabe. “My passion for photography and design are now combined with supporting the cause of O.U.R. Anything I can do to help them succeed with their goals makes me feel like I can make a difference. Sex trafficking is an unspeakable evil. I’m also learning the complexities of business processes and all the individual details it involves.” Gabe adds, “Buying our soap is a win-win situation. We provide beautiful, unique gift products and contribute 40% to O.U.R. for their rescue missions.”

Fifteen-year-old Adam is the social media manager, fragrance/design consultant, and order fulfillment director. He admits, “My favorite part of the business is being creative and developing new products. There is a never-ending assortment of molds and scents to experiment with. I also love knowing I’m helping such a worthwhile cause.”

Saving Soap has definitely mushroomed into a family affair. They are focused on creating beautiful soaps and rescuing children. What could be better?

We invite you to visit them at:

www.etsy.com/shop/SavingSoap

www.facebook.com/savingsoap

 

 

Netpure: Keeping The Internet Safe One Family At A time

Netpure: Keeping The Internet Safe One Family At A time

Donors come in all shapes and sizes from individuals, to small family companies, to major corporations. One newcomer to the Operation Underground Railroad donor family is “Netpure,” a company that has created a home protection device for families. Specifically, Netpure is a child-safe internet router with parental controls, time management and alerts.

As a parent, you take control of the internet for your children with Netpure. You can schedule when it is available to them as well as what content they can see. It is a child-safe WiFi network in your home for your children, while the parent WiFi remains the same. It’s a win/win situation and several of O.U.R.’s employees, including O.U.R.’s founder and CEO, Tim Ballard, are using it in their homes now.

Netpure-Router
Netpure-Router

This is a great way to protect your children from the darker side while giving them the freedom to search the Internet for homework or even fun and games. But Netpure is doing much more than just protecting children from certain elements of the Internet. They are donating to Operation Underground Railroad as well, thus helping to rescue children as well as protect them. That only happens if you help though.

Nepture has provided a special code for our O.U.R. supporters. Right now, if you order the Netpure router using the code: OURGIVER, you will receive $5 off the router and Netpure will donate $20 to O.U.R. Another win/win! How great is that?

The makers of Netpure have been developing security Internet systems for the FBI, the Pentagon and the Navy SEALS over the last 20 years. Now they’ve put that knowledge and experience to work to protect families, so you know it will be effective.

You can read more about Netpure in this review from Gadgeflow: http://thegadgetflow.com/portfolio/netpure-child-safe-internet/

You can also visit their website” http://netpure.com to learn more about how Netpure works.

O.U.R. is truly grateful for every donation. Seeing companies such as Netpure help families as well as rescue children, makes the world a better place for all of us.

Netpure Facebook page

Tony Robbins Teams Up With O.U.R. To Fight The Good Fight

Tony Robbins Teams Up With O.U.R. To Fight The Good Fight

Operation Underground Railroad is extremely grateful to Tony Robbins and his foundation, as well as all those who are supporting the cause to rescue those enslaved by human trafficking.

From Tony Robbins’ Facebook Page:

tony-robbins-fb-2

To view Tony Robbins’ actual Facebook page click here and search Operation Underground Railroad. The following are live links from the Facebook page: HSN, Feeding America, Operation Underground Railroad

We are looking forward to collaborating on future projects with Tony Robbins and his foundation. Together we can all make a difference and save these children. Please help us continue the fight. Thank you!

O.U.R. 2016 Mid-Year Review: An Intimate Talk With Tim Ballard

O.U.R. 2016 Mid-Year Review: An Intimate Talk With Tim Ballard

The following are excerpts from a filmed interview with Tim Ballard on the progress Operation Underground Railroad has made in the first half of 2016.

Tim Ballard:

We have made huge strides this year. The thing I’m most impressed with is that half way through the year we’ve already seen as many or more rescues and arrests as we did last year. We’re probably close to double in terms of the countries we’re working in and the partners that we have.

We have been highly requested here in the States to work in several jurisdictions. We’ve met with several law enforcement officials in various states and set a goal that we would see at least one hundred pedophiles arrested in one year’s time. And just a couple of weeks ago, in the middle of summer we hit that goal. We surpassed it in fact, with over a hundred pedophiles.

These are people that were seeking for children on line as young as nine years old. And we were able to provide the tools to pull these guys out, and inevitably be able to find the children who were actually being abused. So we’re very proud of that accomplishment.

CET-COE:

One of the great accomplishments this year was the announcement of our CET-COE, Child Exploitation Targeting Center of Excellence which is housed at the University of North Carolina, in Charlotte.

We’re actually set up right now to be doing the very unique and different types of operations that we haven’t see a whole lot of yet, using a lot of high-tech strategies to go in and find children who need rescuing and get these horrible, perverted people off the streets.

Technology:

The technology we’re developing is for everybody. In fact, sometimes it’s geared towards law enforcement overseas who just have such limited resources and they don’t have a lot of man power so we can make up for that through tools that allow one cop to do the work of five. And it doesn’t cost them anything.

One reason that we created Operation Underground Railroad is because we saw this need. These law enforcement officers with great hearts, with a desire to help and make their country better, but they had no resources.

O.U.R. Short Term Goals:

We have quite a few operations set for the rest of the year. We’ve already hit our goals, so we’re going to keep pushing, and may exceed expectations. There are multiple countries who have asked us to come in. We’ve already started setting up shop there so we’ll be seeing more operations from now to the end of the year in various places throughout the world.

We’re not meeting our demands though. It’s very difficult for us to sit back and say, ‘Where do we go?’ because we could go almost anywhere now. This is why we need to grow financially. We need more people to become abolitionists because we are not even meeting the demands of law enforcement around the world who need these tools; who need our support.

O.U.R Long Term Goals:

We’ve always talked about setting up offices overseas and we’re starting to do that. These offices are like targeting centers; they’re labs. We are focused on the high technology side to attack this problem. And you’re going to see a lot of more permanent offices in the next several years, offices in various countries that are sponsored in part or fully by Operation Underground Railroad. These offices will be high tech in nature, in terms of the tools that we’re offering, and integrating because with these tools, one police officer can do the work of five officers.

We need to be a force multiplier in this problem. There are way too many kids out there relative to how many police there are looking for them. We built our tools with that in mind. ‘How can we maximize whatever resources are already out there? How can we maximize that?’ Become a force multiplier because with five times the cop power, we rescue five times the kids.

Partnerships:

Our partnerships are mostly focused on the rehabilitation end of things. It’s so important; in fact, it’s the most important thing that we do. We have to have in place something for the rescued children because so often the parents are not suitable or there are no parents or they are part of the problem.

We’ve really recognized that we need to put more into the rehab side and that’s a really delicate thing. We go into these countries that are very developing and we don’t always find the rehab partners that we want, so we have to spend a lot of time building them up.

One country that we are in right now, took us a year to get operational, even though the law enforcement officers in that country were green-lighting the operations. Now, we’re about to do our fourth operation in that particular country because that part (aftercare) is in place.

We hired a new director of rehab, Jessica Mass, who just does an amazing job. She’s partnered with rehab places, facilities, shelters, here in every state in the United States and in every country that we’ve been in, over 15 countries. She has gone and spent a tremendous amount of time finding our partners who we know, that when we have these children, we’re comfortable placing them there.

It’s so rewarding to watch some of these survivors become thrivers. We go back all the time, multiple times a year. ‘How are they doing? What do they need?’ This one wants to be a chef; this one wants to go to college. We can help with that. And we’re watching these stories unfold now. That’s a new development, an exciting development for us.

In 2016, I’d say one of our biggest highlights is the expansion and growth of our aftercare program and the wonderful partners that we’ve been able to make and trust, and watch the kids go there and know they have a chance.

Recruiting:

First and foremost our jump team members have to be brave. I mean, we’re asking them to do very dangerous things. Go into a foreign county. Go in undercover. Walk into a trafficker’s house who would just as soon kill them if they knew who they were.

We seek out law enforcement officers who have experience in rescuing children in anti-trafficking enforcement. It’s so important that these people have the utmost integrity; that they have good hearts. One thing we do, and frankly it’s on purpose, is when we do these tryouts and the training, we ask them to pay for part of that expense of coming over here. And that’s because we want to see who really cares.

I know that every guy that I recruited, especially in the beginning, had to walk away from pensions. They had to walk away from government security. And the fact that they were willing to do that told me that that’s who I want on my team. If you don’t have the heart for this, you’re not going to last long. It’s great to see these people who are willing to fly themselves here and sacrifice financially just to have the chance to make the team.

The Jump Team:

I think very few people are willing to do what our operators do. I mean you sacrifice your innocence in ways that are so incredibly uncomfortable and painful that it’s very rare to find someone to do this.

These kids are in hell. We’ve seen things that you can’t even imagine happen in hell. And the only way to get to those kids is to go in there. You’ve got to be willing go in there and not flinch while you’re there. Anyone willing to do that is just so amazing to me.

It’s like someone willing to run into a burning building. That’s what these guys do every day. It’s a different kind of burning building but it’s no less precarious, no less dreadful and they do it. And I’m so proud to associate with some of these operators that we have working for us – amazing guys – and girls.

Rescues:

It’s imperative to us that our policies on rescue operations are very clear to our partners and donors. We are not a vigilante group. We work with and under the jurisdiction of law enforcement agencies that officially and formally bring us on board. If that doesn’t happen, we don’t operate. But, once we are official we move forward.

Every operation is so different. Our operators will go, usually pretending to be like the other tourists, looking for illicit contact with kids. And then they infiltrate it, and this is where their expertise comes into play in that region; they’ll go in and know how to talk and what to say; how to dig in.

Other times it’s very specific; as specific as, here is this child who’s missing. We can come in with our technology, teach them. We’ve had cases where we look at facial recognition technology that allows us to go in and identify this child that was taken and maybe being sold in a different continent. So it really does vary.

A lot of what we’re doing now though, is targeting pedophiles and traffickers using tools that allow us to exploit places on the Internet where kids are being sold. The dark net is a place where people work with impunity because they think no one’s watching. We’re trying to build tools to help law enforcement to get to those places quicker and more efficiently and understand that world so they can pull these kids out.

Case Story:

In one case, this individual had this child that was being exploited. It was quite a distance from our office and we were expecting to go do the operation the following week. But our operators who are experts on line, were able to identify that this was a problem that couldn’t even wait three days.

And because we have such awesome donors and awesome supporters, they were made aware of the emergency without giving them details. One of our donors said, ‘You need to get somewhere to save kids? Just get to the airport. My plane will be waiting for you.’

I literally left the my kid’s basketball game that I was coaching with nothing, jumped in my car and sped to the airport, got on that plane and had that guy arrested and those kids saved, and those kids placed in safety within 12 to 15 hours. That was an emotional case just because we knew we had to get there fast. But, this is where we have the kind of comparative advantage where we can just go.

The whole flight over I have her image in my head. Five years old and we were able to get to her and pull her out of that situation and that guy’s in jail right now.

The Danger For Children

It’s usually men, perverted men have access to children in various ways; sometimes their own children or a niece or a nephew. They take advantage of the situation where the parents are out of the picture for some reason and they take this child under their wing, so-to-speak, but really they’re grooming them and exploiting them.

They go on line and start selling, sometimes they want to exchange this child for someone else’s child and they want to set up these horrific dark escapades. All I can say is that we have the tools and the ability to have law enforcement intervene in those deals. To find out where they’re happening and when they’re happening, intervene, intercept the deal, and then infiltrate and dismantle.

Eradicating Child Sex Trafficking:

That’s still the goal. We know that it can work. It works on a small scale. We go into one city, do several operations, and we shut it down. At the end of our operations, we can’t find anyone who’s willing to sell kids, all of them citing the previous operations that we previously conducted.

If it works on a small scale, why can’t it work on a large sale? We just need more people, more organizations, and more governments on board. If we made the response to selling kids for sex so powerful, you could literally scare people from thinking about doing it. That’s our goal.

I do believe that we can eradicate this. It’s going to take a long time, but with enough support and enough growth, we are building the tools that can eradicate this.

What You Can Do:

We need your help to make a difference. If you haven’t donated to our cause, please visit our web site at OURrescue.org and start today. Every dollar helps rescue children and ensures they receive the recovery care they need. If you already donate, please take the opportunity to evaluate if you can give more. We’ve already completed more rescues to date in 2016 than we did in all of 2015. We need your support to continue at this pace and fund additional rescue operations. We can’t do it without you. Thank you!

Interviewed and Edited by: Cheryl L. Karr

Operation Fortuna: A Series Of (Un)fortunate Events

Operation Fortuna: A Series Of (Un)fortunate Events

 

 

The Caribbean –

5 Minors Rescued – 1 Trafficker Arrested

 

It was obvious right from the very beginning that the suspected trafficker was greedy, ambitious, and inexperienced. And it was ultimately, what led to her downfall and the rescue of five girls between the ages of 14 and 17.

Operation Underground Railroad had initially come to this lush Caribbean country at the invitation of the American Embassy and the country’s government authorities. They were establishing a working relationship with the national police in order to conduct undercover operations and rescue children from sex trafficking as O.U.R. does wherever it goes.

An advance team from O.U.R. had come to scout out the resort areas of the island and gather intelligence. Three suspected traffickers were identified, each with his own cadre of young girls to offer the western tourists. “These traffickers readily give up personal information: real names, cell phone numbers, pictures of the girls, and where they live, because they don’t suspect anything. We’re not locals,” the team leader said.

Three traffickers translates into three different trafficking networks, each with his own group of business associates, girls and clients. Of greatest concern was that some of these girls were not only for sale for the evening; they were “for sale” for sale as in, “You give me $10,000 and you take the girl forever.”

Plan Disrupted

This was more than enough to have the government support a rescue operation. A date was set with the national police and O.U.R. started mobilizing the rescue team. Unfortunately, the O.U.R. team returned to the country only to discover that not all of the preliminary work had been completed. “They had not done the lead work ahead of time. They had not gotten the court orders, they hadn’t gotten the judicial orders, they hadn’t gotten judge approval for us to actually move forward,” said the team leader.

Operation Underground Railroad is not a vigilante group and will not move forward without everything in place. “We do everything we can to lay the groundwork ahead of time and to prepare, but when we get down there we’re in their hands, ultimately, we’re in the hands of the foreign government,” the team leader explained. In this case, the foreign government told them to return in two weeks and they would have all the paperwork completed and be ready for the rescue and arrests.

New Plans

It was Friday. O.U.R. had been expecting more team members to arrive the next day to help with the rescue. Now everything had changed and the rescue team was put on hold. Stuck with no way to leave the island until Sunday, the team leader asked the host government, “Can we at least meet with the traffickers to talk about maybe giving them some money, seeing the pictures, seeing the actual girls, and can we introduce one of your undercover operatives as our taxi driver or as our middleman, something where when we leave, the traffickers will trust that this trusted local is with us?” That way the traffickers can continue to deal directly with the local, thinking he is just some fixer/middleman/gofer, when really he’s a federal police officer. The national police gave the green light and the plan was set for the next day.

A Fourth Suspected Trafficker

Then plans took a sharp turn – again. A fourth suspected trafficker, a female, reached out to one of O.U.R.’s undercover operatives. “Because of human nature and greed and rumors, the word started spreading around this town on this Caribbean island that there were Americans looking for a good time,” said the team leader. The woman said she could provide five young girls – one of them a virgin.

O.U.R. took this information to the government, hoping to add her to the other three suspected traffickers that they anticipated arresting in two weeks. Unfortunately, with the limited resources of the government they told them, “We aren’t able to add her now. We think we’re at a maximum with the number of kids that we are planning on saving from the three networks. We think that’s going to be the limit of what we can take.”

There is nothing more disheartening than knowing kids are being trafficked and not being able to do anything about it. The national police did, however, agree to let O.U.R.’s undercover team set up a meeting with her and verify that she did, in fact, have children to sell.

The Meeting

It’s Saturday morning. The meeting is set for noon at a local restaurant. O.U.R. flies in the head negotiator. He wants to meet in a less public place but the potential trafficker assures him she will come by herself and then, “I’ll take you back to my house where we can meet with the kids.”

“Matt” plays the role of the rich guy from the U.S. “My security was there, my undercover operatives. They have been on the island working as the middlemen. So I fly in from the U.S. I have not been seen on the island. I am a new face. And I brought a couple guys as my bodyguards.”

 

Making The Deal
The Meeting

“So we show up to the restaurant and our undercover operatives go in to find the woman. Meanwhile, I stay in the car with my bodyguards. Well, then my undercover operative comes back five minutes later and says, ‘the suspected trafficker is in the restaurant and she brought the girls with her.’” At this point a decision needs to be made. Leave and avoid a public scene or go meet with her and see where it leads. Matt chooses the latter.

“We go in and sure enough, there are very young girls seated around a table, five of them – very scared girls. I think, ‘this is the real deal here, this is true.’ So we sit down and we immediately buy the girls some lemonade, some orange juice, some water and tell them to open up the menu and they can have whatever they want. “

“The woman begins to explain to us where she had gotten these girls. She said she was from a poor, poor town outside of this tourist area about 15-20 miles away, very uneducated. She tricked the parents of these five girls saying that she was just going to take them into town to buy some food, look around, take them to a movie maybe.”

“She’s explaining this to us and then we start talking about the prices and she says, ‘Well, each of these girls is very young.’ She gave us the ages: 14, 15, 16, and 17. And she said that the youngest one, the 14-year-old, was a virgin, and she was more expensive. She would be $500. But, the other girls were not virgins but had only been in this, so to speak, for just a month or two, so they’re almost virgins and they were going to be about $300 each.”

It’s Complicated

Everything was going just as expected for an undercover sting. The only problem was the government had not given them permission to move forward. There is no police backup. There is no one to make an arrest. There is no one to take care of the girls. Matt had gone in looking for information and got a whole lot more than he’d bargained for. Now what?

Matt describes the scene. “I’m focused on her. My bodyguards are around talking to the girls. At one point I then take a half turn and just survey the environment, make sure everything is good and I notice that our presence is drawing a lot of attention. That it looks really, really bad. That you have essentially five, six big, white guys, Americans, talking with young women, young girls from this country, ethnically, local girls.”

“People were starting to whisper and look, including a couple who I see take out their cell phones and begin taking pictures. So I immediately said, ‘You know what—this isn’t good, we need to get out of here.’ So I whipped out a stack of local currency, put it on the table and said, ‘Ladies, eat whatever you want. Finish your drinks.” I told the waitress, “This covers the bill.” Then I took out some money and gave it to the trafficker so I could hook her greed, and then I said, ‘Thank you so much, we’ll be in touch.’ And we got out of there right away.”

Operation Underground Railroad trains its operatives to “always go with your gut sense.” In Matt’s case, it just didn’t feel right. He could sense that things were getting out of control and that they needed to get out of there right away and they did. It was the right decision.

They later learned from their connections with one of the other traffickers, who may have had ties with the local police, that within 10 minutes after they left, the local police came into the restaurant, arrested the woman and took the kids in for questioning. Since O.U.R. was working with the national police, the local police would not have known they were working undercover. Had they been arrested as well, they would have had to blow their cover in order to get out of jail.

As it played out, this incident strengthened their undercover relationship with the other potential traffickers. All the operatives maintained their cover as western sex tourists and they managed to have the suspected woman trafficker arrested and the five girls rescued. Actually, the arrest and rescue can be largely attributed to the concerned people in the restaurant who were brave enough to get involved and call the police.

If everything had gone according to plan, this never would have happened, because the national police had determined they would not arrest this trafficker due to limited resources.

However, things got very tense for the O.U.R. jump team. Following the arrest, the local police began looking for Matt and his bodyguards. “This was probably the most scared I’ve been on any of our operations thus far,” Matt said. “We monitored the situation and figured out we were safe staying at our hotel. We kept the federal police officer with us at all times, just in case anything happened.”

The Aftermath

As scheduled, Sunday morning O.U.R.’s jump team got on the plane headed for home. Following Saturday’s incident, Matt had arranged for O.U.R.’s aftercare partner to take care of the five girls that had been taken in for questioning. They were later returned to their parents who were, indeed, unaware that their children were being trafficked. Though traumatized, the girls, as well as their parents, are now a little wiser about the world and the evil that goes on in it and can take additional precautions to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

The woman was interrogated and taken to jail for a minimum of one year pending her trial. A number of witnesses at the restaurant heard what was going on and can testify so she won’t be doing this again.

As far as the three suspected trafficking networks are concerned that were identified earlier, they are being watched and will be taken down at a later date. No one will escape. And the children will be rescued and receive the care they need. It is only the beginning on the Caribbean island and Operation Underground Railroad will be right there to ensure more children are not exploited.

Written by: Cheryl L. Karr

 

Sex Trafficking In The Modeling Industry

Sex Trafficking In The Modeling Industry

 

By Monique Derr –

Her mind raced as the modeling agent urged her to lift her dress higher. She was alone in the room. It did not feel right, but she wanted so badly to make a good impression and get the photo shoot job. Perhaps she was just being too cowardly? Maybe this was how it was supposed to work? “Higher,” he said, as he circled her with his camera. Finally, heart racing, she dropped her dress and asked why it was necessary to show so much skin. “That will be all,” he said, and he left.

She did not get the job. It was not until years later that she learned her gut feeling had been right, that she had been wrongfully pressured, and that the man posing as a modeling agent was, in fact, a predator who was later sentenced to jail time for exploiting young girls with big dreams.

Sex traffickers find ways to target and deceive vulnerable girls in many ways, and aspiring models have become a major focus for some of these predators. “Sex sells,” says world fashion mogul Stacy Eastman. “It is rampant and selling everywhere.”

As an impressionable young man, Eastman studied the fashion industry with some of the best and brightest. “I went to Milan, Paris, and London as an intern, and was head hunted by the most powerful man in fashion, John Casablanca,” Eastman said.

After 10 years with Elite Model Management, Eastman decided to form his own management company and Pulse Management was born. Unaware of modern day slavery in the industry he had reached great success in, he initially sought to put his experience and energy into a model management company that ethically cared for the talent they represented. “I set out to bring morals and standards to the entertainment industry through schooling, healthy eating habits and sports, and really the betterment of the person.”

Eastman then became a husband and father, and was introduced to the reality of sex trafficking through the fictional movie Taken, and he became enthralled with learning more.

“Having spent my life in the entertainment industry, I’ve seen a lot of people sell out and it disturbed me greatly. So I started researching to see if people posed as fashion moguls for this same purpose. Right then, I knew I had to stand and make even more of a difference,” he stated.

Eastman came across Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.), and started digging and learning all he could. “I bought tons of products in support and became, as they say, an abolitionist,” Eastman said. He has since found valuable ways to support O.U.R. and fight sex trafficking within the fashion industry and has played an active role in bringing awareness to the issue.

Pulse Management uses social media and their personal blog as a platform to educate their followers on how traffickers prey on models. They are able to spread the messaging and warning to millions of people through their clients and connections.

Public Relations and Online Media Director Lisa Hong Ballstaedt explained, “We have many followers who want to be models; they could easily be preyed upon because they want it… We want to be a voice of awareness for them.”

On a more personal level, Eastman is able to create dialogue with strangers who ask about the O.U.R. dog tags around his neck, which “I have never taken off,” he noted.

Stacy Eastmand being interviewed at the movie premier
Stacy Eastman being interviewed at the movie premier

Pulse Management has also hosted screenings of the movie, The Abolitionists, and works tirelessly to ensure the safety of the models they represent. Ballstaedt stated, “We protect our models…sex should never be a factor in a modeling photo shoot…we try to be a light in [what can be] a dark industry.”

For those who are pursuing a career in modeling, Eastman has some pieces of advice to ensure safety and legitimacy in potential opportunities:

  • Research the agencies. Check to see if they have a legitimate track record with the actual companies, designers, magazines, and so forth, that they claim they work with.
  • Confirm that they have strong character references from actual models and their parents who they say they manage.
  • The “agency” should never make or force you to wear something that is not age appropriate and/or shoot sexually explicit material.
  • Make sure that parents are always welcome to travel with their daughter, no matter the model’s age.
  • Never pay for “modeling schools.” There are really only three USA markets: NYC, which is number one in the world, Miami, and LA. Travel is mandatory.

O.U.R., unfortunately, has seen many modeling schools used as a cover up for traffickers to prey on the innocent. Unsuspecting parents are lured by promises of a successful modeling career for their children, only to never see then again.

In O.U.R.’s Operation Triple Take, potential sex victims were rescued from suspected traffickers who used former Colombian beauty queen Kelly Johana to entice them. You can read that story here. 

“We spend thousands of unpaid hours ensuring our clients are globally protected with their parents and their futures in mind” said Eastman. Anything less should be a red flag.

Pulse Management demonstrates well the value of contributing to the fight against sex trafficking by means of personal talents and influence. “I adore my wife and two girls, let alone ALL my clients who happen to be beautiful, smart, and athletic girls. I could not bear to see this (trafficking) happen and their innocence be destroyed. So I’ve tried to do all I can and will continue, period!” Eastman exclaimed.

It is important to recognize that any person or organization, with any background, is in a position to join this fight. There are many opportunities to fight sex trafficking, and everyone has a role they can play to stop it.

O.U.R. is grateful for the example Pulse Management has set, and for the work they do to protect young girls with big hopes and dreams. Their work can inspire others to take action against sex trafficking as well. Everyone has something to contribute in this fight.

CrossFit O.U.R. 2016

CrossFit O.U.R. 2016

 

 

If you live in Utah, there’s a great and easy way for you to help support Operation Underground Railroad. Come work out with O.U.R. jump team members at CrossFit O.U.R. in Draper, Utah. Coach Drew Rykert will get you in shape in no time at all, and who knows, maybe you’ll even get to go on a rescue mission.

O.U.R. founder and CEO Tim Ballard personally chose Rykert to run the CrossFit O.U.R. gym due to his experience and commitment to O.U.R. Rykert was already running his own CrossFit affiliate where Ballard and other jump team members were previously working out. Soon both Rykert and his wife became jump team members and participated in several rescue missions.

“CrossFit O.U.R. is for everyone, says Rykert. “Since opening our doors, we’ve had all walks of life come through and that is just what we wanted. This has helped us grow organically and develop a culture where everyone knows your name.”

“Couples continue to be a strong addition and we have started an O.U.R. CrossFit KIDS/TEENS program on Mondays and Wednesdays at 4 pm. We also offer KID CARE at 9:30 am and YOGA at 7 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays and 7am on Saturdays. There is a FREE introductory session every Thursday at 6 am and 6 pm.

Many generous partners are supporting the O.U.R. gym as a means of consistent revenue including WODOmation, Bam Bams BBQ, HYLETE and Kill Cliff and we are extremely grateful to them.

CrossFit O.U.R.
CrossFit O.U.R. Gym

The 8,000 square feet gym was built with donations from private donors and includes a 70 foot Pull Up Rig, Olympic lifting equipment and the best coaches that are trained and certified.

CrossFit O.U.R. is a for-profit gym that started up last September with the intent of helping cover O.U.R.’s administrative costs. With over 100 members and climbing, it’s doing just that. “This way money that comes into Operation Underground Railroad for rescues missions can go directly to saving kids,” said O.U.R. COO Jerry Gowen. The ultimate goal for gym enrollment is 300 members.

Come get in shape and support the organization that rescues children from sex traffickers. CrossFit O.U.R. is located at 13648 S. 200 W. in Draper, Utah. For more information go to our website: CROSSFITOUR.COM

Written by: Cheryl L. Karr