O.U.R Stories
Operation Whale Watch

Latin America

Rescued 24     Arrested 5

Operation Whale Watch was a high-risk mission that Operation Underground Railroad’s ops leader felt was worth the risk. And he was right.

Twenty-four young women were rescued in this operation in Latin America. Only one was a minor. But that one minor is key in the potential punishment of the five traffickers. Because of that 16-year-old girl, they are now facing 15-30 years in prison. That’s a good day’s work.

The mission went pretty much as planned, but was considered high risk for several reasons. First, these traffickers were professionals. They knew what they were doing and they had been doing it for a long time. They were organized, connected, and well prepared to deal with whatever came along. “This was a sophisticated crime ring. The real deal,” said the ops leader. “These guys controlled the drugs and the women, creating heightened security risks.”

Second, they were armed. O.U.R.’s advance team had done their homework and knew these thugs usually packed heat. “The head guy was armed,” said the ops leader. “He carried a pistol on his left hip.” On the other hand, O.U.R.’s jump team members’ weapons are more imperceptible, in that they are highly trained on a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual level. All these assets are top notch and have served them well.

Third, some of the local police were less than trustworthy. “He had the local police in his control, ” said the ops leader. “We believe this guy had the local police on his payroll.” In order to vet out such situations, O.U.R. works closely with the U.S. Embassy and the federal government of whatever country they are operating in. “They always support us from afar,” said the ops leader. In this particular location, they knew some of the local police had been compromised.

This vital information came from O.U.R.’s advance team, which scouted out the area first to determine if there were traffickers and evaluate the potential danger. Their mission was paid for by specific donors who understood they were taking a risk also. If the intelligence didn’t pan out, the donor money would not result in a rescue. Fortunately, for both, it was a big score.

The green light was given. The operation was a go! The jump team assembled and developed a plan with the country’s federal law enforcement for a sting operation. Security is always a consideration, but in this particular operation O.U.R. brought in their top people due to the previously gathered intelligence. Nothing would be overlooked.

OP Whale Watch Beech Party

A house was rented and a birthday party planned as a cover for having a lot of girls gathering in one place. They didn’t want to alarm the neighbors or cause undo suspicion. Prior to the party, cameras were hidden around the room. This video would be useful later on for prosecution purposes as well as telling O.U.R.’s story.

The Latin American authorities of this country were involved every step of the way. Some of their law enforcement people were placed as waiters at the party, partly as a precaution for safety and partly to help when it came time to arrest the traffickers. Others were waiting from a distance and would move in once the signal was given.

Operation Underground Railroad’s ops leader was instructed by law enforcement officials that when he made the payment to the traffickers he was to be sure to count out the money in front of the girls so that they could later testify about the money. It didn’t quite turn out that way.

The girls started arriving at the party. It was clear to the ops team that many of them were reluctant to be there. In fact, they had overheard the traffickers telling the Madam, “You have to force the girls to be there.”

Negotiations never seem to go smoothly. When there is a lot of money involved and the stakes are high, emotions run high too. “They were trying to get the maximum price from us for the girls,” said the team leader. “They believed we were stupid tourists. They were trying to get $1000 U.S. per girl. That is the highest price we’ve been charged. Normally it’s between $200 to $300. One thousand dollars is the price of a virgin. And they lied to us saying many were under age.”

The mark of a true professional, however, is how they handle issues when things don’t go as planned. One group of girls was late to the party due to traffic. A decision had to be made. Do we go ahead and take down the traffickers with what we have or wait until all can be at the party? The O.U.R. ops leader determined it was too dangerous to wait. He moved forward with the transaction and pulled out the money, making sure the girls could see it.

The trafficker had a different idea. He did not want the girls to see the money. It was obvious to O.U.R. that he was planning on taking a larger cut than what he had promised the girls and he didn’t want them to know how much he was selling them for. A compromise was made and a bargain struck.

A drink sealed the deal and the signal was given. Forty-five seconds later the police stormed in. “It seemed like 45 minutes to me,” said the ops leader. “This guy did not have a weapon, but when the police broke in, he reached for a weapon he normally carries in his left hip, but he didn’t have it.” O.U.R. had warned him previously that he would be searched when he came to the party and he had chosen not to bring the pistol he normally carried. Unknown to him, O.U.R. had two of its own flank him on either side, just in case he had managed to sneak something in. He wasn’t going to get away with anything.

Everyone was arrested; even O.U.R.’s jump team. That’s how they manage to keep their cover. O.U.R. had also arranged for a couple of social workers to be there to help with the girls following the arrests. “They were sad, crying, and scared when the police came in,” said the ops leader, “but the social workers quickly helped them to feel safe.” The 16-year-old was taken to a shelter where O.U.R. will be able to follow up with her care and get her the help that she needs. She has since been returned to her family, but O.U.R. will continue to monitor her progress. So far, none of the adult women have chosen to take advantage of the shelter but that could change.

As for the group of latecomers, it is unknown what happened to them, but it is believed that there is still a ringleader out there somewhere who was very lucky this day. “The boss may still be out there and we’re looking for him,” said O.U.R.’s ops leader.” The government will be looking for him as well. His days are numbered.

Written by: Cheryl L. Karr

C Wilson
2016-04-12 15:16:13
Amazing & risky work in pulling this off! The OUR team is fantastic!
2016-04-14 09:06:16
C Wilson - Thank you for your comments. We agree - the O.U.R. team is fantastic, but we couldn't do it without you!
2016-04-12 18:20:16
Brave heroes you are. On behalf of the minor and all of the women involved, I am grateful for what you have done. I am thankful that your team was not harmed. Well done and many blessings to you all.
2016-04-14 09:09:39
Melissa, They are indeed, brave heroes! We also, are grateful they have not been harmed. They are well trained and well prepared for the task at hand but anything is possible. Thank you for your support.
Dan B
2016-04-13 07:21:11
Congratulations on another successful mission. I get choked up every time I get a text telling of your heroic efforts, knowing what kind of danger you put yourselves through for the sake of these children and young adults. Thank you for being a light in an otherwise deeply dark side of humanity. May God bless you and keep you safe.
Michelle Morales
2016-04-13 09:22:18
I have been following your posts for a while now and I am very interested in this topic so I did my research paper on this topic and I sort of need an experts voice in my paper so if there is anyone I could ask some questions to I would really appreciate it thank you. Michelle Morales
2016-04-14 09:11:57
Michelle, It's great you are following the cause and doing research on it. I will get back with you on a recommendation for an expert to interview.
2016-04-13 12:40:48
Like Dan, I get choked up every time I read your updates. I love that you have a running total of people freed and traffickers arrested. Thank you for all you are doing for these children! We keep all of you in our prayers.
2016-04-14 09:13:32
Shannon, The Jump Team is truly amazing. Thank you for your support!
Susan Dalling
2016-04-17 08:35:09
Wonderful and the operations are a blessing to everyone rescued and all of you! Just interested to know if any of the over 18 girls will go back to what they know and are getting paid to do. I wish they could somehow be required to have at least one session in how their lives could be made safer and better instead of returning to life of bitter sadness. Maybe they are. Thank you again for all your team does! I'm sure no one really knows the sacrifice and work it all takes to keep this all together successfully.
Kelli Walston
2016-04-25 23:06:54
Continuing to rescue and support these women (and children) - both during and after - is the most noble of causes. Letting them know that their lives matter, that they are not alone and not forgotten .... THAT is the message. Their is HOPE!
2018-04-18 18:50:17
I value the blog.Much thanks again. Want more.
2018-04-18 22:06:11
I value the blog.Thanks Again. Want more.
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