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O.U.R. Rescue Operations

OPERATION AMBER FORT

OPERATION AMBER FORT

Operation Underground Railroad and Indian Rescue Mission (IRM) have successfully collaborated on a rescue operation in Kolhapur, India.

An operator received intel of a male pimp in Kolhapur offering a 13-yr-old virgin. Once this intel was received we immediately made contact inquiring about the sale. The trafficker quoted the price of the girl at 100,000 rupees ($1,600) for her virginity.

A few days passed and no one heard from the trafficker. After almost 18 days, investigators finally received a call from the trafficker asking them for a deposit as an advance. The deposit was made and a date was set to meet.

On the day of the exchange, the trafficker brought the young girl to the meet-up spot (a brothel) by car. The operator a members of IRM greeted them to exchange the remaining money. Just as the exchange took place, the raiding team swooped into the brothel, rescuing two victims.

Four traffickers were immediately arrested, and will be tried in the Kolhapur Court.

The healing begins now for these 2 victims.


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7 GIRLS RESCUED IN INDIA

7 GIRLS RESCUED IN INDIA

Together with Indian Rescue Mission (IRM), a successful operation just took place that liberated seven victims. We received intel from one of our informants that a male trafficker was selling girls for $75/piece (or 5,000 Rupees). A sting was soon set up with the local police where investigators posed as buyers. After the exchange happened, police were signaled and the raid was successfully conducted. The seven girls were directly sent to the hospital for medical examinations with social workers. They will soon be transferred to a government shelter.


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Undercover in Bangkok: ‘Walking Away Was the Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Done’

Undercover in Bangkok: ‘Walking Away Was the Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Done’

Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post by Jason Buttrill, Head Writer/Researcher with ‘The Glenn Beck Program’, about the human trafficking horrors he witnessed in Bangkok.

I recently traveled to Thailand with Glenn Beck to see firsthand the work Operation Underground Railroad is doing to combat human trafficking. More specifically, to see the children who are being bought and sold on a black market that can only be described as pure, unadulterated evil.

I’ve been to most of the corners of the world during my life. I’ve seen pretty much the worst the world has to offer — from my time as a military intelligence agent in Afghanistan and Pakistan, to my time as a researcher covering the atrocities ISIS has left behind in Iraq. None of it compares to what I saw one Sunday night in Thailand.

The following is an account of what happened, as best I can remember it. But I have to warn you — this isn’t for the faint of heart. You’re going to be disgusted and angry. God knows I was — and still am. But there is good news: Heroes are out there on the front lines.

Sunday 8:00 PM • A Remote Village in Thailand

I link up with one of agents from Operation Underground Railroad (OUR) — let’s just call him Bob — and make the long drive out to a remote village. Bob is an impressive dude. At around six feet and 220 pounds of muscle, I pity the fool who tangles with him.

But Bob is more than just a tough guy. Bob is a highly competent professional and a true believer in the cause. He cares for children with conviction, and that’s a trait common with every operator in OUR. They’re willing to trade their lives, if needed, to save a child from slavery and bondage. That is exactly Bob’s demeanor as we pull into the “rally point.”

The Rally Point and Plan

The rally point is a safe location just outside the village where we gather information and gear, as well as get briefed on what we were about to do. The target is a small strip of road within the village rumored to be trafficked with children in multiple brothels. I listen as Bob bluntly lays out the scenario. This is not a safe environment. There are some very bad dudes taking advantage of some very innocent kids. Westerners don’t frequent this part of Thailand, so we’ll stick out. Our height alone will make us suspect.

Our cover is as two lost tourists looking for a good time. If we manage to talk our way into one of the brothels and confirm that underage kids are inside, we can take evidence to the Thai police. The problem is locals turn away anyone not from the village — Thai and foreign alike. If you don’t live there, it’s a no go. Bob explains how we’ll first do a drive by of the entire street. If he estimates the danger as manageable, we’ll park and approach the brothels.

Go Time

It’s roughly 8:30 p.m. and the single lane streets in the village are pitch black. Tiny lights from within shanty houses provide the only illumination. Bob turns down the target street and lowers both our sun visors so they provide some cover for our faces. Pretty soon, the brothels come into view, as well as the prostitutes hanging out on porches and in doorways. There are at least eight or so visible brothels, but probably more hidden away. Halfway down the street is an outdoor market and bar where a group of men drink heavily, blitzed out of their minds. We mentally make note of their numbers, estimating about 10 to 15 men, a potential problem, but one we ultimately decide is manageable. Bob gives the okay and parks down the street.

We begin our walk down towards the string of brothels and immediately get into character, beginning to joke around and act like typical, naive tourists out for a good time. We’re smiling and laughing, but simultaneously calculating everything we see.

Two Curious White Guys

At the first brothel, we approach four prostitutes hanging out on the front porch — all barely look 18. It’s difficult to gauge how old they are, but the goal is to charm our way inside and get eyes on what’s inside. Intel collected by OUR describes children of extremely low age on display in the back. These kids are typically kidnapped and sold into slavery. As Bob begins talking to the girls, I’m now less worried about our safety and more concerned about our success. It hits me like a Mack truck that kids’ lives are at stake here, and we can’t screw this up.

The girls are very friendly. We try to converse with them, but the language barrier is holding us back. It becomes pretty clear they’re speaking with us — two white guys — out of curiosity rather than seeing us as potential clients. An older woman inside whispers something to girl number four and she relays that to girls one through three. All conversation stops. They bury their eyes into their phones and refuse to look up. Failure number one.

Heading down the road, Bob surveys the surroundings. Pretty soon we hear a commotion coming from the drinking men. White people don’t come out here, so this must be an odd change in their nightly routine. Some look hostile, but the majority seems more amused than anything else. We keep tabs on them as best we can, and they for sure keep an eye on us.

FaceTiming Madam

Approaching the next brothel, we hope for better results. Bob’s like a machine, perfectly in character while I try to keep up. Like the last brothel, there are about four girls sitting on the porch. I can see through the front door a bit, and there’s a blue light illuminating the interior with hardly any furniture inside. Again, there’s an older woman inside sitting at a small table. She looks to be conducting business on a cell phone and doesn’t seem to notice us at first. These girls are also very friendly and giggling nonstop, making fun of us more than anything else and having fun at our expense. The older woman inside hears the commotion and walks out.

She’s FaceTiming with someone on her phone and holds the camera up to show the person on the other line our faces. While Bob is trying to communicate and gather information, I glance over at the group of men getting trashed and notice they’re watching us intently. This isn’t looking good.

Eventually the girls decide they’ve had enough “fun” and the older woman gives a similar whisper to one of the girls, everything stops. One of the girls gives me a cold stare and then buries her face in her phone. Failure number two.

Bob and I agree the safety situation is getting worse, and we’ve clearly outstayed our welcome. The playful banter has ceased. The drunken men on the street are eyeing us and yelling, and someone has seen us on the older woman’s phone. Time to leave.

I feel extremely deflated, knowing kids are inside living a nightmare, powerless to stop it. Bob on the other hand is business as usual. This is how surveillance and investigations are done, day in and day out. It’s not always sexy. You’re not always kicking in doors and rescuing innocents every day. It takes time and OUR is on the job 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I have no doubt their operatives will bring down that street of horror.

9:30 PM • Somewhere Two Hours From Bangkok

Bob drives while I struggle to stay awake. It’s been a brutal two days work, with just a handful of sleep. I get a text from Tim Ballard, head of OUR, who informs me that two of his deep undercover operatives are working on several big leads. He invites me to tag along. Soon after, I get another text with an address. Two hours later, I say goodbye to Bob and book it on foot through the streets of Bangkok. I head into the seedy underground of Bangkok and the freaks are out to play. Most of the people in this area are prostitutes and Western men looking to pick them up. It’s disgusting.

James Bond

Now 11:45 p.m. or so, I think I’ve arrived at the location to link up with OUR’s undercover operatives. Let’s call them Agent James and Agent Bond — and let me tell you, their namesake would be very proud. These guys are legit. I’ve worked with human intelligence teams in the Middle East, and these two guys could easily lead any of them.

James greets me and gives a quick briefing on the night. Fifty meters up the street is a group of African prostitutes who promise to deliver a 15-year-old within a minute. I get into my assigned character, playing a role that perfectly fits the story they’re running. Thinking I would only be observing from a distance and getting camera footage, this was a bit of a surprise to me, but I was excited for the opportunity to help. I was also looking to have some success after the earlier “failures” with Bob.

I follow James to the group of prostitutes, immediately surprised that many of them speak English, making negotiating much easier than before. James transforms right in front of my eyes, becoming a jerky American looking for underage girls. As promised, the leader of the group motions a little girl over to us. She is also of African descent. The innocence in her face shows she’s not like the others. She wears skimpy clothing and a ton of makeup — just like the others — but keeps her head lowered the entire time, cowering. She stares at her high heels, clearly inexperienced, and hobbles off balance as she walks. Not once did she look the other prostitutes, or us, in the eye.

James keeps the story running, gathering all the information he can and leaving with everything needed to continue the investigation and move on to the next phase. I’m blown away by his skill.

We turn and walk back about 50 meters to our original meeting point. I think we’re done, but he immediately begins briefing me on the next operation. His partner Bond is working another group around the corner, down a seedy back alley. They had worked a source earlier in the day and arranged for the trafficker to bring proof that he had underage kids for sale. He agreed, claiming to have a 12-year-old and a couple of 14-year-olds.

Under the Influence

The plan is the same. I am to play my role, but this time James tells me to sit next to the 12-year-old girl and talk to her while he gets intel from the trafficker. My first thought is, Oh, hell no. There is no way I can pretend to be one of these monsters preying on little kids. It must be the feeling any undercover investigator or operator goes through initially. I had never experienced it before. All of my experience has been in the military, catching enemy combatants and terrorists. This is completely different.

As we walk closer I begin to see the little girl and immediately get a sick feeling in my stomach. She is clearly on some drug, resting her head on a table. James taps her shoulder to wake up, sliding a chair next to her and motioning me to sit down. I want to throw up. She speaks a few words of English, similar to how I speak Spanish: yes, no, hello, thank you. I try to stay in character while, at the same time, say things that might make her feel better. From my right ear, I can hear James negotiating with the trafficker, who explains he has many more kids as young or younger than the 12-year-old sitting next to me. Apparently he could have brought more — but they have school. I almost lose it right then and there. Win the Battle and Lose the War? Plans of action shoot through my mind. This guy was tiny, as were his bodyguards. I could snap their necks in a heartbeat, and we could rescue this girl and she’d be safe. My adrenaline is pumping . . . fists are clenched . . . leg muscles are ready to shoot out of the chair.

My attention is diverted as Bond starts hooting and hollering across the table with two more girls this trafficker has brought in. My nerve is breaking, but his is strong. Did he notice me folding? I never ask him, but I’m glad he got vocal at that moment. It makes me realize there are two more kids here. Not only that, but MANY more back at a secret location James is learning about. I feel helpless, so I continue small talk with this poor girl.

James finishes and motions for Bond to get up. We begin to walk away and the trafficker grabs me by the arm: I got you covered. Many, many more kids. I take one last look at that girl, turn around and walk away.

Walking away was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I’m not speaking in hyperbole. Walking away changed something inside me that I don’t think I’ll ever get back. It’s gone for good.

Baby Steps

James and Bond explain how this was a crucial meeting, an opening salvo in a long process of gathering information and intelligence to build a case. They held their nerve, as I almost didn’t, and the lives of countless children are at stake. James received a treasure trove of information, one more crucial battle in this long fought war.

The night goes on as I follow James and Bond through the darkest, seediest alleys in Bangkok. I watch and listen as they approach potential traffickers. They are clinical. The way they get information from people seems almost effortless, they’re that good. They get at least one more lead from a madam that brought a 14-year old-girl to show to us. She is dressed like a veteran prostitute while simultaneously clutching a teddy bear.

Our night ends around 2:30 a.m. James and Bond hop in a cab, but I decide to walk back to my hotel. I need time to process.

I thought I had seen and known evil throughout my many travels. Turns out, I knew nothing. This was evil in its purest form. This was the worst humanity has to offer. As I write, I’m still struggling to get the image of that little girl out of my head. She remains in a remote, secret location among many more child slaves. But I know something her captors don’t: OUR and their Thai partners are on their trail. The goal? The liberation of every single child involved in this depravity and the evil men responsible to be thrown in jail. I’m counting the seconds.

 

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Glenn Beck talks about his trip to Thailand with O.U.R.

Glenn Beck talks about his trip to Thailand with O.U.R.

 

This morning, Glenn Beck recaps his experience seeing the realities of child sex trafficking in Thailand where he traveled this past weekend with O.U.R.

“As I left [for Thailand], I saw a lot of people on Facebook and Twitter saying… ‘Why is Glenn going to Thailand and why are you raising money for this when there are so many problems at home?’  Let me explain why.”

Glenn saw American men who abuse children there in Thailand, “and here is why it matters [here]. They come back here, and they are worse than they were.” He compares them to an alcoholic’s mentality; as one “drinking vacation” abroad would not satisfy their addiction, then why would they stop when they return to the states?

Beck goes on to describe the condition of one of O.U.R.’s partnering aftercare facilities, and he donated enough money to keep the orphanage open and hire two full-time doctors for the 56 children the orphanage cares for.

We are grateful for Glenn Beck’s grand gesture and all he does to spread awareness to save these children.

Listen to the show segment here:

 

 

 

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Share this article. Become an Abolitionist.

Did you know that 40% of our operation costs are covered by our recurring Abolitionist donors? For just $5/mo you can help us rescue more children.

4 Rescued & 4 Arrested- Operation White Crow

4 Rescued & 4 Arrested- Operation White Crow

O.U.R. successfully completed an operation in conjunction with India Rescue Mission (IRM), which resulted in 4 survivors rescued and 4 traffickers arrested.

It started at a brothel in India that was being run by 2 female traffickers. The team traveled to the brothel where they connected with one of the owners and began conversation. Shortly after, they were offered each girl for $1,000 USD for the purpose of sex. A plan was immediately put into place with law enforcement where they would intersect the traffickers while they were traveling to a hotel to deliver the girls in exchange for money.

On the way to the hotel, the car was pulled over and the 4 traffickers were immediately taken into custody while the 4 survivors were taken by social workers to the hospital for examinations. They have since been placed in a government shelter for survivors of human trafficking where they are receiving proper care.

Unfortunately, these sort of “transactions” take place every day and in almost every part of the world. We are so grateful for our partnership with India Rescue Mission and for the diligent law enforcement officers who fight this fight every day.

What can YOU Do?

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DONATE TODAY

Become an Abolitionist.

Did you know that 40% of our operation costs are covered by our recurring Abolitionist donors? For just $5/mo you can help us rescue more children.

Operation Opened Door

Operation Opened Door

5 Rescued 7 Arrested

Operation Underground Railroad and Indian Rescue Mission (IRM) have successfully collaborated on a rescue operation in Manpada, Thane District, Mahrashtra State of India (suburb of Mumbai). Operators received intel about a hotel where girls were being trafficked and forced into prostitution. The team posted as buyers and verified the intelligence collected. Future information was gathered that these girls were in restricted movement and not allowed to leave the location in which they were being held. This information was passed to the senior police office of Manpada Police station and teams were immediately called to conduct the raid. During the raid it was discovered that the girls were being held in a basement or underground like dungeon without light, toilet facilities or access to the outside world. The price for each girl was Rs.2000 (or $23 US dollars) for 1 hour of sex. Once the girls were rescued they were immediately taken to the hospital for examination. Post examination the girls will be taken to a government shelter determined by the local court. The 7 traffickers have been taken into custody and charged with the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act 3,4, and 5. O.U.R. is so grateful to IRM and all those involved in this successful operation. The real healing begins now and with that comes a new hope for these 5 survivors

Operation Friend Finder- Malaysia

Operation Friend Finder- Malaysia

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

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

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

Operation Homeschooled- 10 Arrested in Mesa, Arizona

Operation Homeschooled- 10 Arrested in Mesa, Arizona

Child Prostitution Arrests

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

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

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

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

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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