Browsed by
Tag: Jump Team

Operation Sun Bear

Operation Sun Bear

3 Rescued – 2 Arrested

The owners of a Vietnamese café in Phnom Penh, Cambodia were suspected of serving up much more than food at their little roadside business last month. Unusual activity in the area caught the eye of Operation Underground Railroad’s NGO* partner Agape International Missions (AIM)

and an investigation began.

With O.U.R.’s support, AIM joined forces with the Municipal Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Police to investigate the odd circumstances involving the café and together concluded that it was operating as a front for a brothel. Further investigation showed that three girls were being held by the husband and wife team and sold for sex to approximately 15 to 20 buyers each day.

On February 17, 2016 enough evidence had been gathered, and O.U.R.’s partners, in conjunction with local law enforcement, raided the café. Three girls were rescued from the brothel and the owners were arrested.

At this time it is unclear where the three minors came from, although it is suspected that they may be from Vietnam. They are now in an aftercare facility where they are being helped to recover from their ordeal. Here, they will find their strength and be less vulnerable to traffickers in the future. In addition, they are learning new skills that will help them survive and thrive as they move forward in their lives.

An O.U.R. jump team member who works along side AIM says that it is not uncommon to see young girls being trafficked across the border in Cambodia. He says, “A lot of them come from Vietnam or from rural hill tribes on the Laos, Vietnam boarders of Cambodia. They are usually promised some type of legitimate work initially, but once they get to the capital, they are forced into the prostitution industry instead.” Those who have enslaved these young girls usually hold their passports and give them new identities, making it nearly impossible for them to escape.

The owners of the Vietnamese café in Phnom Penh have been charged with child sex trafficking and related offenses, and are currently in prison awaiting trial. O.U.R./AIM’s legal team is helping the three victims and will represent them throughout the legal process to ensure the traffickers pay for what they have done and prevent them from doing it to others.

“Operation Underground Railroad is very fortunate to have established this relationship with AIM,” says O.U.R. Founder and CEO Tim Ballard. “AIM has been working in Cambodia for many years and has a very good reputation.” Working in partnership with other NGOs is very cost effective since they already have a presence in the country.

*NGO: Non Governmental Organization is usually, although not always, is non-profit.

Written by: Cheryl L. Karr

 

 

 

Operation Jungle Cat

Operation Jungle Cat

9 Rescued  –  3 Arrested

They have no passports, no birth certificates and no country. They are considered people with no identification. Stateless. And they live in one of the most dangerous places on earth: The Golden Triangle of Southeast Asia.

This worn-torn part of the world, is made up from parts of Myanmar (formerly Burma), Laos and Thailand, and is known mostly for its opium and heroin production. The area is heavily littered with land mines due to the last 50-60 years of civil unrest and its people are chewed up and spit out by heartless taskmasters.

Children born into such circumstances have little hope of escaping a life in either the drug or sex trade. It is for this very reason that Operation Underground Railroad’s brave jump team dared to venture into this lawless land.

“This was an extremely dangerous operation and we worked very closely with the Thai Border Police and the Thai Army Rangers,” said the team leader. “We also had some special contacts that we’ve worked with previously, who helped us on the borders with the investigation.”

One such contact alerted O.U.R. to victims of sex trafficking who were being held by a Burmese father and son team. The victims had recently come from refugee camps in Bangladesh and Bhutan and were tricked into believing they had found good fortune.

“They are coerced with promises of schooling or a good job,” said O.U.R.’s team leader. There are safe houses or holding houses the traffickers use near and around the border to hold the victims.”

Once at the border, the traffickers use various means to get their victims across and into other countries where they can be sold.

“They will dress these children in school uniforms, pretending they are being sent across the border for school. Once on the other side, they are usually sold from there to a brothel owner or a labor trafficker,” said O.U.R.’s team leader. “They are also used to carry drugs across the border.”

In Operation Jungle Cat, O.U.R. worked very closely with law enforcement to ensure the safety of the children as well as our operatives. It was a very tense and dangerous mission, which led to a total of nine victims being rescued.

It is not unusual in third world countries for younger people and their parents to be fed a story of opportunity for school or success or employment. They are so desperate for that hope that they become vulnerable to predators. Then families who were already barely making ends meet do not have the means or ability to search for their children or convince officials to spend limited resources on these missing children cases. The children resign themselves to participate due to the severe threats of abuse and retribution they have experienced at the hand of the traffickers. The added transfer across a conflicted region leads to a lack of follow-through on such cases. The children truly are lost between government agencies and there are little resources for these cases.

Determining where to place the rescued victims of Operation Jungle Cat was complicated in this lawless land with stateless people. Some were returned to Myanmar while some of the children are in Thailand where members of O.U.R. will follow up with them. Three traffickers were arrested and will most likely serve a minimum of ten years in prison.

Kudos to O.U.R.’s jump team members and all those who risk their lives to find and rescue these victims of sex trafficking. Well done!

Written by: Cheryl L. Karr

 

 

 

Operation Black Mamba

Operation Black Mamba

14 Rescued  – 2 Arrested

They call it the flesh market. Code for young girls wanted for sex. And the flesh market is running rampant in India.

The girls are hidden – literally – behind trapped doors. Locked. Only able to come out when their services are required. There are no windows, no fresh air, and no freedom. Some try to escape and are severely punished for the effort if caught. Most accept their fate as something they have no control over and are doomed to live in the shadows.

In February, Operation Underground Railroad, in partnership with the Indian Rescue Mission (IRM), rescued 14 young women living under such horrific conditions in Mumbai, India. Two of which were minors.

According to one O.U.R. jump team member, there are many such places in India and they are not too difficult to find. “It’s pretty easy,” he says. “I just have to walk down the street. We call it the hunt. We start at one end of the street and go on down it.”

He and his team know what they are looking for. “I’ll go to the bathroom, pretending I’m drunk, and look through the different hallways and will find girls. If I get caught I just say I’m lost.”

“If I can talk to the girls, I’ll ask them about where they’re from, if they have brothers and sisters. If they act stressed or if they have injuries this allows us to assess whether their stories are provided to them by the traffickers or not. Often they are abused or beaten,” says the O.U.R. jump team member. “I try to break down walls by asking, ‘Do you like it here? No. Do you have a passport to get back home? No.’ After a while you get a feeling for whether they’re telling the truth or not.”

This particular rescue operation was led by O.U.R.’s NGO* partner IRM in conjunction with the Joint Commissioner of Police and the Deputy Commissioner of Police in Mumbai. After identifying the brothel, a team of 20 police personnel plus officers raided the bar at midnight. Only four girls were found, but they knew there were more. They just had to find them.

Hours of searching through long corridors and darkened rooms eventually yielded ten additional girls hidden in a small room that was obscured from view behind a wooden cupboard. These rescued girls have now been placed with a trusted aftercare facility where they will get the help they need to adjust to freedom and self-reliance.

The dance bar has been shut down and the owner arrested and charged with sex trafficking. O.U.R. will continue to monitor the situation to ensure that he pays for this crime.

No one should have to live this type of life and yet there are thousands of young women in India who are doomed to it. O.U.R. continues to look for them with the help of its NGO partners and will not stop until there are no more to be found.

*NGO: Non Governmental Organization

Written by: Cheryl L. Karr

Aftercare in Action

Aftercare in Action

They are children. CHILDREN! Trying to survive. Their stories are varied but none are pretty. Some are kidnapped and trafficked for sex or labor. Some have parents or grandparents, who cannot afford to care for them, or simply do not see a problem selling them due to longstanding cultural issues, while others are married off as child brides. And sometimes the children themselves put misplaced faith in those who promise one thing and then deliver something all together different. The end result, in all cases, is enslavement.

Operation Underground Railroad looks for these battered and broken children all over the world, rescues them and has the perpetrators arrested. But then what? What happens to these children? Their lives are shattered and forever changed and they need healing. They have been traumatized and, in many instances, feel that life has nothing to offer them.

Children who can go home, are returned to their parents. Loving parents provide the best support and brightest prospect for recovery. Unfortunately, many of these children have nowhere to go. In some cases, if they return home they are at risk of being sold again.

“When I worked for the government,” says O.U.R. Founder and CEO Tim Ballard, “we turned the children over to recovery facilities that would take care of them. My job was to rescue them. Now, at O.U.R., we are partnering with ‘Aftercare’ facilities to ensure that these children are getting the help they need.”

Recovery is handled differently depending on the country and its laws. One of the things that prompted Ballard to create these partnerships was a country that would not allow O.U.R. to check up on the children once they were rescued. O.U.R. had vetted the recovery facility prior to the rescue and knew the people would take good care of the children, but not having access to follow up on them was a concern.

Today, Operation Underground Railroad has a team member who has worked with children who are in crisis or have experienced trauma. She not only meets with potential aftercare facilities directors and managers, but also works with the girls that are there, ensuring they receive the help they need.

“In December 2015 we were able to identify a specific aftercare center that we partnered with to provide aftercare services for children rescued in the future. The aftercare staff consists of the executive director, social workers, therapists, an amazing house mom and an American woman. As a team they are helping provide holistic care for these girls. All of the staff are very dedicated to their recovery process. In total there are about 20 girls that live there at a time. Due to donated items O.U.R. was able to provide clothes, sandals, puzzles, and school supplies. We are so grateful for the humanitarian donations we have received,” says O.U.R.’s team member.

Gifts for the girls at the Aftercare Center
Gifts for the girls at the Aftercare Center

All these girls are courageous in their struggle to overcome the abuse. One was just 12 years old when she delivered a baby shortly after arriving at the center. Another was rescued from sex traffickers that had taken her to a totally different continent to work. Their stories are disheartening but they now have hope. And they are extremely grateful.

A Rescued Sex Slave painting the fingernails of an O.U.R. Jump Team member
A Rescued Sex Slave painting the fingernails of an O.U.R. Jump Team member

“The joy and gratefulness for such small gifts was truly humbling. The girls treat each other like family. They were excited for each other and expressed how beautiful they felt in their new clothes. One girl said, ‘I have the most beautiful sisters and am very grateful for the encouragement they give me.’ One could feel the spirit of joy and healing in this home,” observed the team member.

In addition to the practical items for the girls, O.U.R. members in collaboration with local leaders in the fight against human trafficking were able to provide a unified training with those who run various aftercare centers. “We provided training for social workers, counselors, therapists and house moms. All of those who attended, work directly with survivors, including the agency O.U.R. has partnered with. We also partnered with Smarter Parenting, which is a branch of the Utah Youth Village. Based on the request of the country we were serving in, we were able to bring them this skill-based program, that has years of evidenced-based research in how to help youth grow and thrive. It was only through collaboration with the in-country leaders that we were able to bring helpful resources,” says the O.U.R. team member.

Operation Underground Railroad is actively seeking out aftercare partners that will continue to help with the recovery and healing these young victims need to believe in themselves and their future. Next month we will bring you an update on one young girl who was kidnapped and pregnant when O.U.R. rescued her. Today her future is looking very bright.

Written by: Cheryl L. Karr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Slave Stealer

The Slave Stealer

(A Sneak Peek Into O.U.R.’s New Podcast)

There’s no denying it. The stories of Operation Underground Railroad rescuing children from sex traffickers have gripped people all around the world who were blissfully unaware that such horrendous acts take place. Now, O.U.R. Founder Tim Ballard, will be telling his stories on a new podcast launching today.

The podcast is the brainchild of Mark Mabry, who has extensive experience as a writer and producer, and has accompanied Ballard on several child rescue missions. “The Slave Stealer podcast connects Tim Ballard with people who want to join the fight against slavery,” says Mabry. “The conversations are candid, energetic and often emotional.”

Several episodes of Slave Stealer are already produced and ready to go with the first one available today at SlaveStealer.com. Ballard is the host of the show with Mabry being the on-air producer. “We have invited a few guests to early episodes, such as the former president of Mexico, Vicente Fox, and television celebrities Montel Williams, Marisol Nichols and Glenn Beck,” says Mabry.

SlaveStealer.com offers a variety of information about child sex trafficking with some shows focusing on Ballard talking with Mabry about rescue missions and what goes into them, while others lend insight from a variety of influential sources.

“We have guests in order to illustrate that everybody has something to offer,” according to Mabry. “The fight against slavery and trafficking has multiple fronts. One high-influence person may have the ability to sway millions of opinions or raise millions of dollars. Another might be able to effect legislation, such as HR515. An inspired teenager might be able to help his peers identify the traffickers trap. Awareness needs to exist everywhere and the show helps us help influencers to go on the record and share the discussion with their own circles of influence.”

Tim Ballard is excited about the opportunity to help people understand the ‘ins and outs of trafficking.’ “The important thing about this podcast and about O.U.R. in general is how we are different. People ask us that and it’s such a dark subject and we try to be light. We try to bring light to it. We don’t just say, ‘Look at this horrible thing and what are we going to do and woe is me.’ We have to show that but then, we’re the light in this darkness because we’re not just talking about it. We’re actually saving kids. We’re actually extracting them. We’re actually providing tools that result in the rescue of kids and the arrest of traffickers and pedophiles. And that provides hope and that is what this podcast is about. It’s talking about the problem, but more importantly, it’s talking about a solution.”

Each SlaveStealer podcast runs between 30 and 40 minutes and can be downloaded with any number of apps found here http://www.theverge.com/2015/6/4/8724949/best-podcast-app-iphone-outcast-pocket-casts-castro. Podcasts are free and anyone with a smart phone or computer can access them. Simply follow the link to SlaveStealer.com and subscribe.

Subscribing to the podcast is free and we invite abolitionists everywhere to join us in spreading the word. It’s a great way for you to not only hear about what is going on with O.U.R. and human trafficking, but by increasing our audience we increase the potential for sponsors. And the more sponsors we have the greater potential we have for rescuing children from sex traffickers. So if you want to help fight child sex trafficking, subscribe right now. Here’s a sneak peak at the first podcast – click: SlaveStealer

Tim Ballard believes that everyone would help if they really knew what was going on, which is the point of the podcast. “People don’t know or they would do something.” Come listen to the Slave Stealer podcast and become an Abolitionist!

Written by: Cheryl L. Karr

 

 

 

 

Looking Within Operation Underground Railroad

Looking Within Operation Underground Railroad

Looking Within O.U.R

In the two short years that Operation Underground Railroad has been operating, hundreds of victims of sex trafficking have been rescued all around the world and O.U.R. is growing faster than even its Founder and CEO, Tim Ballard anticipated.

That can be a challenge, but one that O.U.R. welcomes. With growth, more victims of sex trafficking are being rescued from the dark hole they find themselves in and are being helped to start a new life. Perpetrators are being taken off the streets resulting in a residual effect that is difficult to measure. Relationships with governments and NGOs are being established, building bridges and expanding influence and effectiveness worldwide. New tools are being developed to dig deeper and train others to help in the cause. And O.U.R. has invited hundreds of volunteers to join in the process. In other words, O.U.R. is moving mountains.

Rescuing Victims of Sex Trafficking

Operation Underground Railroad’s first and main objective is to rescue children who are enslaved by sex traffickers and to heal them. It is estimated that there are at least two million children worldwide in this situation. They are not only in third world countries, although O.U.R. has focused much of its work in these areas.

The United States, as well as other developed countries, also shares much of this shame; and this year O.U.R. anticipates rescuing more victims in the U.S. than anywhere else. “I predict that in 2016 we will see more arrests inside the United States than outside the United States,” says Ballard. “Not that our numbers outside the United States will decrease. They won’t. But, we’re going to have more arrests this year, I think in 2016 in the United States than outside and it’s because of the work we’ve been able to do in 2015.”

Operation Underground Railroad’s first rescue occurred December 2013 in Haiti. Listed as one of the poorest countries in the world, O.U.R. discovered an illegal orphanage selling children for between US$5,000-$15,000 and rescued 28 children which are now safe in a legal orphanage. Additional rescues have occurred in Colombia, Mexico, Peru, The Dominican Republic, Thailand, India, Nicaragua, Uganda, and the United States.

“In our first year we were mostly invited by foreign governments who knew they needed help immediately,” says Ballard. But that is beginning to change as local U.S. governments see what O.U.R. is accomplishing. “In the U.S. we have more experienced law enforcement agencies and so they’re less likely to look for help on the outside, until they saw what we were doing overseas,” noted Ballard. “Not all of them, but many of them came to us and said, ‘You know, we’re not even doing that here,’ and that was so great to hear because I knew that, but I knew in my first year I was going to have a hard time because it’s not a partnership, that law enforcement, especially in the United States, are used to doing, this private/public partnership.”

However, helping victims out of their situation is only part of the job. We don’t considered victims truly rescued until they have been healed and O.U.R. has made huge strides in working with organizations that help these victims return to their families or learn a skill so that they can find employment.

How Many Victims has O.U.R. Rescued?

How many have been rescued? This is a question we hear a lot at O.U.R. but the answer is actually more complicated than it appears. Ballard explains, “This is a debate we have with Jerry (Gowen), our COO, about naming the number, the exact number of kids we’ve pulled out and I don’t like doing it because it’s not accurate. For example, we’ve rescued girls who have later become informants for the police who then go out and rescue 20 more. We might not have been there but that was the result.”

Additional examples include joint rescues with government officials that create a media buzz. “After the four operations we did in Colombia we found that when we went back into those cities and tried to look for it again it had shut down completely. No one would even talk about selling kids. And they’d reference all the media about the rescues we had done and of course, they didn’t know who they were talking to. We were the ones who had created that media storm. So there’s the deterrent effect,” says Ballard. “There are kids who aren’t being trafficked right now, who never knew they might have been or who are going to be, because of the deterrent effect.”

An additional deterrent includes the number of law enforcement personnel that have been trained by O.U.R. to replicate what O.U.R. has shown them.

So, what’s the answer in cold hard numbers? “I will tell you there are 404 victims that we’ve actually seen and been able to put in a safe place. But that is not representative of what we’ve done,” says Ballard.

How Many Sex Traffickers have been Arrested?

How many have been arrested? That’s the number that’s most important according to Ballard. “One number I would focus on are the people we put in jail,” says Ballard. “Because one person, one trafficker, one pedophile in jail, how many kids does that save over a lifetime? Dozens likely. These guys will abuse children by the dozens and so the fact that he’s behind bars, so again, how many kids will not be abused or will not be trafficked and they never knew they were going to be. That’s our goal. That’s our number. Who knows what it is, but it’s enormous.”

To date the arrest number stands at 122, but continues to grow with each rescue and follow-up. Jail sentences vary depending on the country but most are put away for between 7-25 years.

O.U.R.’s Partnerships

Operation Underground Railroad has made huge advances in developing partnerships with local and foreign governments as well as NGOs (Non-Government Organizations). These groups have been invaluable in helping to rescue and rehabilitate victims of sex trafficking, as well as making sure the perpetrators are prosecuted and punished. American Ambassadors in various countries have helped to coordinate unity with law enforcement, while the United Nations has provided a platform to bring awareness to the issue.

We’ve also partnered with recovery groups that help these victims get back on their feet. We have social workers that help them deal with the trauma they’ve been through and talented teachers who teach them employable skills so that they can support themselves.

O.U.R.’s Technology

Operation Underground Railroad is continually developing technology that will help law enforcement identify and locate the bad guys. “The Director of our cyber division is doing amazing things,” acknowledged Ballard. “Unfortunately, we can’t talk about all these things, but I’ve always said, that is our future. The future of O.U.R. is in these digital tools that we’re developing and distributing to law enforcement to allow them to find pedophiles who are traveling, find pedophiles who are visiting to places where there are children. Tools that will just be absolutely invaluable to law enforcement around the world and the United States to root out the most evil amongst us that hurt our children. So, that progress has been a huge highlight for us in 2015. The problem is it’s so sensitive that we’ll never be able to get into the details of it.”

O.U.R’s Volunteers

Perhaps the biggest contribution to helping find these precious children and victims of sex trafficking is the volunteers who have come to O.U.R. from all walks of life. It is truly inspiring to see the dedication and commitment they have. They organize 5K runs, donate their cars, hold fundraisers, garage sales, become abolitionists, etc. to help the cause; and because O.U.R. is one hundred percent supported by donations, they are an integral part of everything we do. And we couldn’t do it without them.

2016 and Beyond

Two years ago Operation Underground Railroad started with one man who believed he could make a difference. He saw the evil in this world and tries every day to eradicate it. To date over 404 victims of sex slavery have been rescued and at least 122 perpetrators arrested because he had the courage to stand up and fight.

O.U.R.’s future is bright. We are well positioned to grow not only in the number of rescues and arrests, but in helping others to join the fight with training, technology, fundraising, legislation, and preventative and aftercare for victims. We are making a difference and we invite you to join us. Visit our web site at ourrescue.org on ways you can help. 2016 is going to be a great year!

Written by: Cheryl L. Karr

 

 

 

Operation Maya

Operation Maya

The Operation That Almost Never Was

16 Rescued – 9 Arrested

Everything was planned perfectly down to the last detail, but as events unfolded, not everything went according to plan. It was, however, a series of unplanned events that led to more victims of sex trafficking being rescued and greedy traffickers arrested than previously anticipated in this Latin American country.

The Opportunity

The rescue operation began several weeks ago, when a few undercover Jump Team members from Operation Underground Railroad were approached by a man who eventually became known as the “Fabricator.” He obviously thought these were American tourists looking for a good time, and he was excited to talk about what he could offer them. He had pictures and prices and was ready to make a deal. It almost seemed too easy for the O.U.R. Team.

Building the Case

At this point the team leader shared the information and intelligence with the country’s law enforcement and judicial authorities. O.U.R. had already been working to establish this relationship for a long time and was eager to move the case forward. All the evidence pointed to the takedown of a sex trafficking ring, and the authorities loved it. “This is fantastic. Let’s move forward,” they said. And then the case fell apart.

Falling Apart

It turns out that the “Fabricator” was making up the entire story. O.U.R. operatives discovered the pictures of the girls he claimed to be able to provide for the American tourists were, in fact, photos from the Internet. He had also insisted that the undercover operatives pay a deposit before any further arrangements be made. O.U.R. refused to gamble with donor money; the deal soured and everyone walked away disappointed. The “would-be” trafficker was upset that he didn’t see any money. O.U.R. operatives were saddened that the case had fallen apart, and host government authorities were frustrated that the suspected trafficker was able to just walk away.

Rebuilding the Case

However, the O.U.R. Jump Team was not ready to give up just yet, and they returned to the country a few weeks later, which happened to be just a few days before New Year’s. They followed secondary leads they had gained during their first visit, and the new suspects turned out to be the real deal. They not only had pictures, but also were actually able to show their victims to the O.U.R. operative. The traffickers were ready to party.

One trafficking network consisted of two men who worked in tandem and the other was a single guy who had connections. The O.U.R team leader reached out to the Latin American government again to see if they would be willing to take another chance. “He said, ‘If you guys are still ready, we’re ready.’”

To allow the country O.U.R. is working with to get credit for the arrests, and to keep our operatives safe, the host government provided the Jump Team leader with a way to report the traffickers.

“They gave me an anonymous tip line, like a hot line with a phone number and email address. So I emailed them (the police) and said, ‘A few of us were in town minding our own business and these guys came up and asked us if we’d like to have a good time and party with young girls. They showed us several pictures of very young girls. We said we didn’t want any trouble with the cops.’ Per the host government’s request, I sent that email and that was enough for their prosecutors and police to start building a case.”

The government took over the case from there, but still needed O.U.R.’s undercover team involved since we were the initial point of contact with the traffickers and had the skills and experience to convince the traffickers to bring their victims. If local officials were to directly engage now, the traffickers could become suspicious and shut everything down. The plan was to have a sex party under the guise of a 16 year-old’s birthday party. The government approved the house where the party would be held and put the final touches on the operation. Everything was going according to plan… or so they thought.

The Party

“On the morning of the operation we thought we would help take down two trafficking networks,” noted the O.U.R. Jump Team leader. “Two networks total, each of them bringing about six girls.

“However, about an hour before the operation our advance team, who was in near constant contact with the traffickers, started getting texts from these guys saying, ‘Oh, I’m bringing a friend to control the girls, or an associate is coming who is bringing more girls.’ So they started bringing more people who wanted more money.

“This brought on the most dangerous part of the operation, the last -minute introduction of additional traffickers. We’d had several meetings with the traffickers we knew. Then, on the day of, they informed us they were bringing additional friends, so to speak, additional traffickers and additional girls. So, we’re not going to say no.

“All of a sudden people showed up that we didn’t know. That was a bit alarming, that and the fact that they brought drugs. Some of them were obviously on drugs. That was clear. They were just acting a little bit more erratic and their total demeanor changed.

“So all of a sudden I’m racing to feed this information to the police so they would be prepared for the total number of arrests and rescues that would be needed. Names, what they’re dressed like; because we met the traffickers at a pre-determined location about five minutes from the party.

“Then the traffickers showed up to the house. Our team welcomed them in, and everything was well planned. We moved the girls upstairs with one of the female jump team members so they would be sheltered from the police break-in and multiple arrests that would take place. There were no men upstairs to traumatize them anymore. We had chips, pretzels, soft drinks and music playing to try to calm them a little bit and we directed the traffickers all the way to the back patio on the ground floor.

“We sat them in a semi-circle around the table facing away from the front entrance so they would not see the police come in. I sat on the other side. Imagine me as a black jack dealer, passing out money while the traffickers sat around the table. We’re going over everything. The predetermined sign for the police to enter, once we had everything in place was, ‘Let’s have a tequila.’

“After a couple minutes we had everything ready and I called for the tequila. Two undercover police were on the patio acting as waiters and to provide additional security. About two minutes later – which to me seemed like two hours – the police entered in a perfectly choreographed manner, sending one team upstairs to protect the girls, a second to arrest the real traffickers, and a third to arrest the entire jump team and keep up the ruse that we were the bad guys.”

The Rescue

“There were 16 girls in the upstairs room, seven of which were minors. Some were the younger sisters of the traffickers, according to police, and many appeared very nervous and unaware of why they were at the party, as some had been tricked or forced into coming. When the police came in the girls appeared very, very scared. One began to hyperventilate. Fortunately our Jump Teams travel with a medic on hand who went upstairs and saw that the poor girl was nervous and scared so he broke character a little bit and pulled out his medical bag and began to calm her down. He told her she wasn’t in trouble. That’s also what the police told the girls. They kept saying ‘You’re not in trouble,’ trying to calm them down because they were scared.

“Meanwhile, the other victims, started talking to police and the country’s equivalent of child protective services, and shared information on the traffickers and their network. The victims made it clear that they were tricked into being there and did not want to be forced to perform sex acts. They were told they were going to come to a birthday party. We only heard that the day after from the Latin American authorities.

“The great thing about the post-rescue rehabilitation plan is, because we already had our in-country network of rehabilitation contacts in place from an earlier O.U.R. rescue, they immediately got in contact with the authorities and were ready to assist the minute these girls got out of the custody of child protective services.

The Arrest

“A total of nine traffickers were arrested, three were actually adolescents themselves, 17 years old. They were the brothers of some of these girls. The six adult traffickers are in some pretty tough legal trouble. They have been placed in two months of pre-trial detention.

“The rules in this country state that if you’re over 18 you can prostitute yourself if you want to, however, a third party cannot prostitute you or profit from your prostitution. The fact that these guys brought these girls to a sex party and stood to pocket money for exploiting the girls will be a big problem for them.

“That’s why our Latin authorities asked us to make it very clear on the envelopes in which we put the money, you put the number of dollar bills, hundred dollar bills, they wanted us to write clearly in Spanish, ‘For Manuel. For Carlos,’ etc. and ‘Thank you for the six girls. Here’s the price.’ What the Latin American authorities didn’t want was that later the traffickers would say, ‘No, no, no. I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I didn’t know why I was at the party and what the money was for.’ ‘Well, here it is in black and white. Here are your names and the thank you very much. ‘“

Summary

“It’s always a fine line that we walk in these situations, not knowing whether or not we will be able to pull off a rescue, so it’s a credit to our advance team who refused to give up, and when the first suspected trafficker failed to pan out they continued to ask questions. And that’s what got us into the two and eventually three networks that we took down,” said O.U.R.’s Jump Team leader. Before the operation O.U.R. secured top cover to be able to go into these tourist areas to see what traffickers would offer us.

According to O.U.R., “The beauty of it for the government is that they don’t have to expend any resources until we have a case for them. We do all the prep-work and use limited donor funds for maximum effectiveness.

It’s a tricky business developing relationships, finding the right partners and rescuing the children from the grips of greedy sex traffickers. And it doesn’t always go according to plan no matter how much you prepare. Fortunately, as a result of the experience and training O.U.R. Jump Team members have, even though things didn’t go according to plan, everything ended up successful, with the bonus of additional traffickers arrested and girls rescued. Go Team O.U.R.!

Written by: Cheryl L. Karr

 


Operation Rhino Fist

Operation Rhino Fist

Three Rescued – Three Arrested

Moments leading up to the operation are tense. There is always an amount of uncertainty that comes with any sting. On this rescue in Mumbai, India some Jump Team members are outfitted with hidden cameras in their backpacks, watches or fanny packs, not only to capture the “take-down” for Operation Underground Railroad, but to be used later on when prosecuting the pimps.

Every movement of the operation is planned and executed precisely. Jump Team members nonchalantly walk into the hotel lobby and spot the victims in the lounge nearby. They are at the table closest to the exit trying to look like a normal family but they aren’t fooling O.U.R. or our NGO partner, James, with the Indian Rescue Mission. There are six of them; three minor girls, the pimp who brokered the deal, dressed head to toe in a black burke with only a slit for her eyes, and another woman and a man who are accompanying her.

This undercover operation all began when James from IRM put word out on the street that he was expecting some friends from out of town for a visit and wanted to show them a good time. Eventually, he was approached by a pimp who showed him a number of photographs of women, however, James told the pimp that he was looking for something more “exotic” or “fresher.” The pimps were easily able to fill that order providing some of the youngest girls in their control.

The take down comes soon after spotting the “family” in the hotel lounge. James walks over to them and starts a conversation. Soon after, law enforcement closes in, arresting the pimps and rescuing the three minor girls who are taken into the care of social services. They are treated as victims rather than prostitutes and are under their protection.

There are no updates on the girls at this time as social services is keeping them away from the public, however, O.U.R. is working with other entities to ensure these girls get an education and develop employable skills so that they will not be vulnerable to human traffickers again.

The real surprise in this operation, however, came with the discovery that the arrested male pimp was, in fact, an Executive Officer for the Anti Corruption Intelligence Committee. No one anticipated this but it has certainly opened up the investigation into corruption as well as human trafficking in Mumbai. And that’s a win/win for O.U.R. and its partners.

Written by: Cheryl L. Karr

Operation Triple Take – One Year Later

Operation Triple Take – One Year Later

It’s been one year since Operation Underground Railroad conducted Operation Triple Take in Colombia resulting in the rescue of 123 victims of sexual exploitation with 12 traffickers arrested.

It was, and still is the biggest operation O.U.R. has conducted to date. Three Jump Teams in three different cities, executing a simultaneous sting in order to rescue sex trafficking victims; and it went off without a hitch due to the strategic planning of O.U.R., CTI (Colombia’s FBI equivalent) and Homeland Security Investigations from the U.S.

Today, many of the victims that were rescued are back with their families, safe and sound, if not a little wiser about the world. Many of these families were duped by the traffickers into believing they were sending their children to become models that would make lots of money to send back home. In fact, one of the traffickers was a former beauty pageant queen in Colombia and used her position to gain the trust of parents and their children.

Today, she, along with the other traffickers that were arrested, is in jail awaiting her fate. According to O.U.R.’s Senior VP for Rescue Missions Matt Osborne:

“The legal cases are ongoing, and despite intense efforts by the suspected traffickers and their families to gain their release, thus far the Colombian justice system is holding and the alleged perpetrators remain behind bars. The organized criminals and their families have threatened our partners in Renacer, CTI and elsewhere, but the brave Colombian prosecutors, police officers and the NGO specialists remain undeterred. The trials are likely to begin in the first quarter of 2016.”

One of the would-be sex buyers was arrested in Florida for his part in the sex party as well as other potential sex crimes including making pornographic films with minors. Dennis DeJesus, 45, of North Lauderdale was investigated by Homeland Security agents, which had evidence he was intending to fly to Colombia as a sex tourist, someone who travels in search of sex. As a result of the strong case HSI, CTI and O.U.R. put together, DeJesus had no other choice but to plead guilty and is currently serving 15 years in prison.

You can read more about his arrest and plea deal in Florida here.

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/broward/fl-sex-tourist-broward-colombia-20150422-story.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2796189/florida-sex-tourist-busted-international-sting-repeatedly-traveling-colombia-sex-young-girls-produce-homemade-porn-films.html

In the city of Armenia, many of the victims have received additional support to combat the ongoing threats and pressure from the network of traffickers. The evidence O.U.R. and CTI collected during the sting however, looks to be strong enough to build a solid case against the suspected trafficker for a 15-20 year sentence.

According to Osborne, “The CTI partners remain in contact with many of the families of the survivors and report that most are doing well. The communities remain very happy with O.U.R.’s actions and the parents of the survivors are doing what they can to ensure their children do not fall prey to another trafficking organization.”

Rescued victims were treated by Renacer, http://www.fundarenacer.com/ a private-run organization that relies on donors. Osborne says, “Renacer truly is a first class rehabilitation center that provides the gamut of services to help any exploited child get back on her or his feet. Some of the survivors of Operation Triple Take received temporary medical, psychological and education-related care in the facilities, while a few survivors had to undergo full-time, live-in training to get them back on their feet.” Due to the sensitive nature and age of the victims we are not able to give individual stories.

Osborne reports that, “Following Operation Triple Take several members of CTI and the Colombian National Police (CNP), sometimes working in conjunction with the US Embassy, have stepped up their operational pace against traffickers and have looked to attack this problem head-on. Colombian authorities appear energized by the results of Triple Take and are looking to branch out on their own, exactly what the O.U.R. model encourages.”

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes honored the Colombian team recently for its efforts in reducing child sex trafficking, acknowledging their bravery in taking this step and noting that O.U.R. could not have done it without them.

“Colombia is our most competent, committed, and forward-leaning partner in South America, and we are looking to maximize this potential to save as many exploited kids as possible,” said Osborne.

http://ourrescue.org/blog/operation-triple-take/ – Operation Triple Take

Written by: Cheryl L. Karr

Giving Tuesday is for Giving Freedom

Giving Tuesday is for Giving Freedom

Join the Thunderclap for Operation Underground Railroad December 1st –

But you need to act NOW!

O.U.R. is participating in #GivingTuesday to raise money to end human trafficking and help in the recovery efforts of those we rescue.
  • Our goal is to raise $50,000 on December 1, the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving to allow people to give their thanks for the privileges they have that many of those we rescue do not.  Here is how you can help:
  • SHARE ON SOCIAL MEDIA – To help you easily share and not forget to share on this day, we’ve utilized Thunderclap to get everyone sharing at the same time on #GivingTuesday. To sign up for our Thunderclap campaign and schedule your message to post at the same time as everyone else, please go to:  https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/34260-givingfreedom, and click the “login/register” link in the upper-right. Once you’ve registered and supplied your Facebook or Twitter accounts, you can schedule a post to go out automatically at the same time as everyone else. We are trying to get 500 people to do this! Throughout that day we encourage you to keep posting! We will be using the hashtags, #GivingTuesday and #GivingFreedom throughout the day if you want to post and participate in the conversation. Feel free to share and post the things we’ll share on our social media channels on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Google+ throughout that day.
  • JOIN THE EMAIL LIST – For those on the email list, we will be sending updates leading up to the campaign to give you updates and provide resources you can use to share on #GivingTuesday. To sign up for the email list just visit  http://ourrescue.org and put your email in the box below “Send me updates about missions and ways to help.”
  • DONATE – We are trying to raise money to help children who are the victims of sex traffickers by rescuing them and helping them throughout their recovery. We plan to raise $50,000 to help them. To follow our progress please find our #GivingFreedom campaign on yourrescue.org.

Your donations help many causes related to ending Human Trafficking. Thank you.

*Thunderclap is a tool that allows many people to all post on social media at the same time. They sign up with their Facebook and Twitter accounts, and it then posts automatically for them on the date and time specified to start a wave of sharing on the day we launch the campaign. We are hoping to get 500 people to sign up for this thunderclap.