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This man helped free 29 women and children from sex trafficking

This man helped free 29 women and children from sex trafficking

 

Ex-CIA analyst Tim Ballard is now a sex-trade investigator — and he just cracked a major ring in Haiti that liberated 29 young women and children.  170220-tim-ballard-feature

It was all in a day’s work for Ballard, who teams with a nonprofit called Operation Underground Railroad, made up of former members of the US military who use their know-how to battle child-trafficking and sex slavery in countries where the practices are common.

The Haiti operation, called Sainte Jou — Creole for Blessed Day — led to the arrest of nine suspected sex traffickers on Feb. 5, Super Bowl Sunday, by local authorities, who worked in tandem with the US organization.

“We are not a rogue agency, we are not vigilantes,” said Matt Osborn, a CIA and State Department veteran, who helps Ballard direct the group’s operations.

They target locales notorious for sex trafficking and then set up complex sting operations to nab the pimps and free the young women and girls.

In Haiti, a sting was set up at the Kaliko Beach Club, a high-end resort on the west side of the island of Hispaniola, which is shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

On Feb. 3 and 4 — as Americans were preparing their Super Bowl parties — Osborn said a team of 25 men began flying in to “play the role of middlemen for wealthy American pedophiles.” They organized with the pimps to line up local girls — some as young as 13 — for an orgy.

“The average price we were going to have to pay was $300 for each girl, for what was billed as a sex party of four to six hours,” Osborn said.

By Sunday, a yacht moored off-shore was made to look like a wealthy party boat down from Florida for the weekend.

Most of the undercovers were wearing flip-flops and shorts and playing ball on the beach to give off a party vibe.

Ballard, who worked for the Department of Homeland Security as a special agent, met face-to-face with the pimps and recorded the details of the deal to hand over to Haitian authorities, who swooped in to break up the sex ring.

The US State Department said Haiti only passed legislation criminalizing sex trafficking in 2014.


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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

 

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

 

 

After The Abolitionists Movie Premier

After The Abolitionists Movie Premier

 

Silence is not always golden. In fact, many injustices continue today because those who would fight against them are not aware they even exist. Such is the case with child sex trafficking and slavery – until now.

The feature-length documentary The Abolitionists premiered in theaters nation-wide May 16th, enlightening audiences who previously were blissfully unaware of this dark side of the world.

They now know that child sex slavery is one of the biggest plagues of our day and is growing by the minute. Sweet, innocent children, are kidnapped, sold, or tricked into becoming sex slaves and movie stars of pornographic videos. It is real. It is happening. And it needs to be stopped.

The Abolitionists is the story about a former CIA officer and HSI agent, Tim Ballard, who unwillingly became exposed to this dark side of humanity during his 12 years with the government.

It only took one rescue for Ballard to realize these children needed saving. Since then he has left government service and begun his own non-profit organization, Operation Underground Railroad, to rescue these children.

Movie theaters were sold out across the country for the premier. Some were bought by modern-day abolitionists who are doing what they can to help rescue these children. Other theaters, simply sold individual tickets. The Larry H. Miller Theaters donated all proceeds of the movie to O.U.R. for the rescuing of children – a very generous gift.

Current estimates put viewers at around 35,000 for the May 16th event. Exact figures are still coming in. Reactions have been inspiring. People have been shocked, saddened and amazed at what is happening to children around the world. Here are just a few of the comments from viewers:

“When I saw the movie The Abolitionists, I was heartbroken at just how many innocent children are being forced to be trafficked and forced to be sex slaves.” William Billiam

“Well done. Didn’t like the subject matter, but that’s why it made an impact. God bless this film and the light it is shining on human trafficking.” Helen Matter

“Very inspirational and informative for everyone. We really need to work together to stop human trafficking.” Melissa Peters

“As dark as the subject matter is, I love the hope and light that are fighting the darkness!” Jenn Foote

A movement has begun. Since the premier of the film on May 16th, volunteers are signing up with O.U.R. in record numbers to help rescue these children.

“It has been amazing to see the response of people after they have seen the film. They are motivated and ready to do all they can to put an end to this atrocity,” said O.U.R.’s National Volunteer Coordinator Jani Dix. “People are willing to give their time and talents and truly believe they need to be part of this solution. There is a lot of darkness in this world and you see that in the film, but there is also so much light and the O.U.R. volunteers are a testament of that.”

Since the premier of the film, over 550 volunteers have signed up to help O.U.R. fight this plague, bringing together an army of 1300 worldwide to rescue these children. And there is something everyone can do.

You don’t need to donate money to help, although that is a great way and very much needed. Many volunteers offer their talents to the cause. Some are helping by organizing events, some are writing articles or giving presentations that spread the word. We encourage you to help in whatever way you can, because once you know this is going on, it is very difficult to do nothing.

Helen Keller once said, “I am only one but still I am one. I cannot do everything but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”

Tim Ballard saw something wrong and is doing what he can to right it. “My goal is to eradicate this heinous crime all around the world. That may take some time, but I believe we can do it.”

What will you do to help? Visit our website at ourrescue.org to discover the many ways you can make a difference.

If you have not been able to see the movie, The Abolitionists yet, you can request it to play at your local theater by inquiring at  http://theabolitionistsmovie.com/contact/.

Sex Sting Nabs Alleged Child Predators

Sex Sting Nabs Alleged Child Predators

Posted: Friday, May 6, 2016 in the Appealdemocrat.com

By Monica Vaughan/mvaughan@appealdemocrat.com

The child sex sting that led to a Yuba City planning commissioner’s arrest and subsequent resignation was part of a months-long, resource-intensive operation that resulted in criminal charges filed against five other men.

The most recent arrests were Tuesday night, when two men were hancuffed and questioned after they separately showed up at a meeting location where they presumably planned to have sex with 9- and 14-year-old girls.

“They’re predators in our community. They’re looking for kids to have sex with. Grown men are looking for children to have sex with,” said Jason Parker, chief investigator at the Sutter County Districk Attorney’s Office, which is coordinating the stings.

“When we set operations up, we know these guys are out there. Our goal is to go after them.”

While similar stings have been conducted across the country for years, this is the first sting in Yuba-Sutter to focus on child sex crimes. It was created and led by District Attorney Amanda Hopper, with support from the Sutter County Sheriff’s Office, the Yuba City Police Department and an outside organization, Operation Underground Railroad.

“Much of public safety is reacting to crime after it occurs. This operation was proactive,” Hopper told the AppealDemocrat in her first public statements about the operation.

Men who were arrested in the Sutter County stings are accused of reaching out to what they believe to be people offering children for sex. They allegedly clearly communicated what they would do with the minors, and showed up at a pre-arranged meeting, presumably with the intent to rape or molest children.

Defense attorneys representing men arrested in the stings, who were contacted by the Appeal-Democrat, said they were not yet familiar enough with the operation to provide a statement.

While the sting operation is seemingly bait to trap would-be perpetrators, Deputy District Attorney Clint Curry said it isn’t entrapment.

“A person is entrapped if a law enforcement officer engages in conduct that would cause a normally law-abiding person to commit that crime,” Curry said. “It’s an objective test. It doesn’t matter subjectively what’s in the suspect’s mind. It looks at behavior of the government agent.”

In this operation, detectives don’t offer people any motivation or reason to come to the meeting, he said. For example, he said, they don’t say “If you have sex with this child, she will be freed from slavery.”

Staff from Operation Underground Railroad assisted the agencies in implementing the plan.

“We’re a small rural community with limited resources,” Hopper said. “Operation Underground Railroad provided the support, experience and education and resources that we would not otherwise have.”

“One of the things the District Attorney’s Office agrees with Operation Underground Railroad in, is the need to educate people about how real child sexual exploitation is, and that it’s here and it’s everywhere.”

Each operation required hours of commitment from officers in three law enforcement agencies, Hopper said.

Details were not immediately available about how much staff time the operation cost.

“Every person there (Tuesday) had already worked full days and nights, and then more days. They put in the hours because they wanted to, because they had the opportunity to do good for Sutter County and to protect its children,” Hopper said.

Sheriff J. Paul Parker said it’s “absolutely” worth it for four or five of his deputies to work flex time or overtime to participate.

While most arrests of suspected sexual predators are made after a victim comes forward, the crimes the men caught in this sting operation allegedly committed have no real victims.

“It’s cheaper to intercept (these crimes) before they occur than after they occur,” he said.

After a sex crime has been committed against a child, “you have a victim, someone who has been traumatized for the rest of their life. How do you put a monetary value on that? You can’t.” This (operation) is a fiscally conservative approach,” Parker said. I think it’s been very successful.”

The suspects

The seven arrested men don’t seem to share any traits aside from their gender.

“We’ve seen 18-years-old, 50-years-old, economically well-to-do and we’ve seen dirt poor. We’ve seen different racial groups represented,” said Deputy District Attorney Clint Curry. “The only thing they have in common is they have a penis.”

Aside from Ivin Rhyne Jr., a former Yuba City planning commissioner who works with the California Energy Commission, most of the men caught in the sting live in the Sacramento Valley, but outside of Yuba-Sutter.

Jeffery M. Albo, 50 from Washington state, told investigators he was in the area as a contractor for three weeks at Beale Air Force Base.

Albo and Timothy L. Neher, 40, were arrested Tuesday evening, after they separately showed up at different times at the meeting location. Both are married with children, according to court documents.

Charges filed against them in Sutter County Superior Court on Thursday include felonies for attempting to perform sexual acts with a child and for arranging and appearing at a meeting with the intent to perform sex acts with a child. The most serious count is punishable by night years in prison.

Law enforcement officials involved in the operation say the men are predators, and the operation allows those men to be weeded out. The point was argued Thursday during Albo’s arraignment in front of Judge Christopher Chandler.

Although Albo has no criminal history, “This is the kind of crime that happens in secret,” Curry said. “It takes a lot of resources for law enforcement to ferret out.”

Albo’s attorney, Chris Carlos, argued Albo has never been arrested, and it’s “not appropriate to say he might have something out there. (He has) no criminal history.”

Assuming Albo did what officers say he did, “he made a mistake,” Carlos told the judge.

How it works

Each sting operation requires weeks of preparation. From start to finish, some 20 officers are involved.

“Every cop who works these goes, ‘This is what law enforcement is about. This is what I always wanted to do’,” Parker said.

On Tuesday evening, more than a dozen detectives gathered at a remote location to await the arrival of a suspect. Undercover officers posed to meet the suspect, as clearly armed officers on arrest teams waited nearby, prepared to cuff the suspect after a signal was communicated.

The suspect said he would meet at the spot when he left work.

In the days leading to the meeting, he and a few other men communicate with an undercover detective who claimed to have access to children available for sexual acts. There was no discussion of an exchange of money, only an interest in sex with children.

Audio and video surveillance was wired in the meeting location, which officers observed in a nearby room.

“Our hopes would be that we set up an operation and have no one respond,” Parker said.

That hasn’t been the case. At least on arrest has been made each of the five times detectives set up a location. On several occasions, men have expressed interest and arranged a meeting but never showed up.

“That’s not a bad thing,” Hopper said. “If they are legitimately hesitant about raping children, I want them to back out.”

The first target suspect on Tuesday did not back out. As soon as he arrive, he was arrested. During a search, officers found in his possession condoms and a bottle lubricant, Parker said.

He gave short answers.

Detectives off-site listened to the interview through a baby monitor.

After he was driven away to be booked into Sutter County Jail, detectives stayed on site and prepared for the next suspect’s arrival.

Arrested and charged

David Ignacio Chavarin, 33 of North Highlands.

Nicolas Davide Brown, 26, of Oroville.

Howard Montenegro, 44 of Sacramento.

Timothy Leroy Neher, 40 Chico.

Jeffery Michael Albo, 50, of Edmonds, Wash.

Professional baseball player observes sting

Former White Sox baseball player Adam LaRoche was present with Sutter County law enforcement officers to observe a child sex sting operation on Tuesday evening.

“After my experience overseas, I went on a quest to find out more about trafficking. That’s when I cam in contact with Operation Underground Railroad and was invited to Sutter County,” LaRoache said in statement provided to the Appeal-Democrat.

“Everyone who was present in Tuesday’s operation has an interest in protecting children,” said Sutter Coutny District Attorney Amanda Hopper, whose office coordinated the sting.

 

 

WHAT’S IN A NUMBER? #Rescue 500

WHAT’S IN A NUMBER? #Rescue 500

Total To Date: 529 Rescued – 182 Arrested
(2014-2016 )

In April 2016 O.U.R. hit the 500 mark for the number of rescues of victims of sex trafficking. Far more than its founder, Tim Ballard, was able to accomplish in the 10 years he worked with Homeland Security rescuing children from sex traffickers.

Currently O.U.R. is averaging four to five rescues per month. The exact number of victims rescued as of this writing is 529, but Ballard will tell you it’s not the numbers that count. “We are action focused,” said Ballard. The quantifiable numbers show our progress, but they only tell a part of the story.”

One of the most important areas of success can’t really be measured. It is the deterrent effect. And that is the result of catching traffickers and pedophiles before they can get to their targets.

“There are children out there right now who will never be trafficked because the people that would have trafficked them are in jail,” said Ballard. “And they don’t even know they would have been trafficked because it never happened. You can’t measure that.”

The second deterrent is the fear of getting caught. With O.U.R.’s successes, many traffickers are now afraid to sell children where O.U.R. has been operating, and pedophiles are afraid to buy them. O.U.R.’s jump team verified this recently when returning to areas where they had previously conducted stings, working undercover, trying to buy children. The traffickers informed them that it is now very dangerous and they will no longer sell children. This is the goal O.U.R. hopes to replicate all over the world.

Operation Underground Railroad first began rescuing children two and a half years ago in developing countries where resources are limited and children are most vulnerable due to poverty and cultural issues. O.U.R. always works within the law and with law enforcement in a public/private partnership that is resulting in a very successful model.

Law enforcement in the United States is taking notice of O.U.R.’s impressive record in these developing countries and some areas of the country are now partnering with O.U.R. to help supplement their meager budgets since O.U.R. does not charge for their services.

To date O.U.R. has helped law enforcement in the U.S. rescue eight children and arrest 47 potential pedophiles. And according to O.U.R.’s COO Jerry Gowen, the arrests are the number we should be paying attention to because for every pedophile taken off the streets, numerous children will never be violated.

O.U.R. is leveraging technology to help eradicate pornography and shine a light on the problem of child sex abuse in the United States as well as other countries. “We’re helping rescue children in so many ways,” said Gowen. As we get more resources we’ll do even more.” O.U.R. is currently operating in Southeast Asia, South, Central and North America and The Caribbean with the goal of one day eliminating child sex trafficking all over the globe.

Written by: Cheryl L. Karr

Operation Whale Watch

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emerging From The Shadows

Emerging From The Shadows

 

Anna’s Life in Aftercare

The following story was written by one of the Operation Underground Railroad team members who oversees aftercare for the children it rescues. This is an update on a young girl O.U.R. rescued in Africa a little less than a year ago. She was just fourteen when she was raped, then kidnapped and eventually made a child bride. She was pregnant when O.U.R. rescued her and had the perpetrator arrested. He is currently serving time in jail for the crime.

Anna
There is no “one-size-fits-all” after a child is rescued from sexual slavery. However, when a survivor is provided resources, counseling and people who truly invest in one’s life you often see the birth of hope. This is the story of Anna, a young teenager who has been through the worst horrors that this life can produce, and yet, she has hope beyond understanding.

I last visited with Anna in December 2015. I got to see the infancy of hope in her as she sang Amazing Grace and told me that she wanted to do something with music when she got older but wasn’t sure what.

I could not be happier to report my most recent observations and interactions with Anna. She is not just surviving but is thriving in many areas. While “thriving” is defined very differently based on the individual, one thing is consistent; hope.

This visit I did not even make it back into the home before I saw her with a bright smile coming out to the patio. She walked with a confidence and glow that only comes when one is experiencing restoration.

Through generous donated gifts, O.U.R. was able to give Anna clothes, books, nail polish, puzzles, jewelry, and clothes and toys for her baby boy. Her gratefulness about the new items would inspire anyone to sacrifice a meal to provide her with things she can call “her own.” The true gift she said was, “Thank you! I feel loved.”

She kept looking at the different nail polishes, so I asked her if she was good at painting nails. Without missing a beat and with a huge smile on her face, she said, “Yes, I am very good at painting nails.” So, of course, any woman who hears this offers her unpainted nails to be used as practice. Anna graciously offered to paint my nails, but it wasn’t just “painting nails.” There was a beautiful pride she had as if communicating her feeling and belief that she has so much to give back to the world.

Uganda Aftercare 2

For all those who stand with us, I hope you know the gifts you give out of love are received not just as “items” but are also received with the same spirit of love. While we are a world apart, we are yet united in love through the healing process of restored hope.

O.U.R. also had the privilege of spending quality time building a relationship with Anna, her baby, and one of the social workers at the center by taking them out to eat at the local mall. Anna stated that she had never been to the mall.

When we all arrived, Anna’s eyes were so big as she looked around at all the different stores. When asked where she wanted to eat, she confidently pointed toward the restaurant on the second floor. She is showing so much growth, finding strength to express her desire with confidence that her opinions matter.

Over lunch Anna shared that she was excited about going back to school in a few weeks. Anna also stated she had a better idea of what she wanted to do after she graduated from secondary (high school). She hopes to become a businesswoman, open a music studio and incorporate being a DJ within her business.

I observed that Anna has grown so much over the last couple of months through the care she is receiving at the aftercare center in Africa. She still has a long journey ahead of her and obstacles to overcome. However, what if no one had come to rescue her?

O.U.R. has been blessed to rescue so many children around the world from the horrors of sexual slavery; but if O.U.R. was created just for this one precious life, it has all been worth it. Anna has hope for her future and believes she will accomplish her dreams. She is truly an inspiration to all of us to invest in the lives of others.

To help “Anna” and others like her please go to OURrescue.org

 

Changing The World

Changing The World

 

A Night At “The Abolitionists” Film

The lights came back on and the audience just sat there, amazed, following a special screening of the movie The Abolitionists (PG-13). They clapped, they cried, and they were inspired to do something.

The feature length film follows Operation Underground Railroad’s jump team around the world as they plan and execute rescue missions of children enslaved in sex trafficking all around the world. It shows the joys of rescue as well as the struggles of working with evil. And it’s coming to movie theaters across the country May 16 th for one special night.

Audience member Stephanie Davis said, “It was very powerful, very well done. This is a dark subject and this is a great way to reach people and educate them. I want to do something.”

Danielle Swopes said, “I cried the whole time. The part where she sold the two kids – it just seems so remote. It’s heartbreaking. It totally kills your faith in humanity. But it was restored by what O.U.R. is doing.”

Andrew McCovins said, “I thought the film was awesome – very realistic. I like three different plots and I love the cause anyway. I just made a donation.”

This private screening was put together by a man who works in real estate investment funds by day, but is an O.U.R. jump team member by night. He invited his business associates, clients and friends to the screening. “In this theater there are 500 people with a net worth of ten billion dollars,” he said. His aim was to raise money to help rescue children from sex trafficking immediately following the showing of the film.

As the movie ended, “Paul” got up and started telling the audience what it’s been like working with O.U.R. and helping to rescue the children. As he spoke a slide was projected onto the screen with a number to text to donate, and the money started trickling in; small amounts at first and then it began to take off.

Paul finished speaking and O.U.R.’s Founder and CEO Tim Ballard took the spotlight and told everyone how Paul has helped O.U.R. as well as the children.

Next up was Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes. He spoke about his experience on Operation Triple Take and alerting the audience to the fact that sex trafficking is one of the greatest issues of our time with 20 to 40 million men, women, and children trapped in slavery today.

Paul came back to the stage to announce the total amount that had just been raised. Everyone clapped but it was way short of Paul’s goal. Pledge cards were passed out and a special auction was held for a limited number of private dinners with Tim Ballard and Sean Reyes.

Now the donation total continued to climb, but some people were starting to leave. Unfazed, Paul continued to tell how O.U.R. had changed his life and how pornography and sex trafficking are the plague of this generation. The more he talked, the more the money came pouring in.

AUDIENCE

The evening ended with a final plea from Paul to help rescue these enslaved children and he wasn’t disappointed. Audience members opened their hearts and their wallets and helped Paul meet his goal. And the best part is that the essential oils company doTERRA is matching whatever Paul was able to raise this night. A true gift that O.U.R. is extremely grateful for.

Now Operation Underground Railroad is asking you to step up to the plate. If you are able to host a movie theater on May 16th and fill it with associates, clients, and friends, O.U.R. would love to show you how to do it. Just contact us at jend@ourrescue.org. Following the screening there will be a special Q & A with O.U.R.’s Founder and CEO Tim Ballard shown in the theaters.

O.U.R. knows not everyone has the fundraising abilities of a “Paul,” but large companies and corporations can sponsor a theater and fill it with their corporate family and friends. Theater sponsorships range from $2000-$5000, depending on the seating capacity of the theater.

“There are a total of 600 theaters currently available to O.U.R. by AMA, Cinemark, and Regal,” said Marketing Director Hugh Vail. “Now it’s our responsibility to fill them.”

If you are more of a movie “attendee” rather that a movie “sponsor” you can help by telling your friends and family about the movie and attending the screening at a movie theater near you on May 16th. Ticket information is available by clicking here, and a percentage of all movie sales will go to help rescue children from slavery.

Some people have expressed concern about the content of the movie. “They don’t know if they’re going to see pornography. They don’t know if they’re going to hear swearing, but once they view it they say, ‘It was very well done,’ and become abolitionists and want to do something,” said Vail. The PG-13 rating is related to the subject matter. There is no pornography or swearing.

The Abolitionists’ Executive Producer Jerry Molen, who co-produced Schindler’s List and Jurassic Park, among many other award winning films, wanted to make sure this movie would be uplifting and inspiring. Now in his 70s, he calls it his “Swan Song,” and hopes it will leave a lasting impression on all who see it.

The main goal of the film is to in bring awareness to this modern-day plague and inspire people to do something about it. “The big thing about this movie is that it’s a catalyst for a movement,” said Vail. “It has the ability to change the world.”

Written by: Cheryl L. Karr

Links:

The Abolitionists Movie Trailer

How to Sponsor a Movie Theater: email Jend@ourrescue.org                                                 

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