In 2014, Operation Underground Railroad conducted its biggest rescue operation to date. It was called Operation Triple Take, with three takedowns in three different Colombian cities to rescue victims of sex trafficking. Along with the 123 survivors liberated, 20 traffickers were arrested and now face charges for their heinous crimes. Chillingly enough, one of them was Kelly Johana Suarez, a former beauty pageant queen and professional model in her early twenties, known as “Miss Cartagena.”
“Miss Cartagena’s” credentials and reputation in her home of Obrero, a poor neighborhood in the South of Cartagena, made her an effective recruiter of young girls and boys for sex trafficking. Not only was she a successful model, but she also appeared in a music video for a 20-time Latin Grammy award-winning Colombian musician, further boosting her status. Her trusted role as a leader in her impoverished community was also gained through her former beauty pageant experience and social work studies at Colegio Mayor de Bolívar.
However, beneath the surface, Suarez was nothing short of a monster. She used her good standing and credibility to lure children away from their families with promises of making them models. Instead, she sold them into the booming sex trade of Colombia.
Her sickening trafficking network was finally blown by undercover O.U.R. operatives on the white sandy beaches of an island just a short boat ride away from Cartagena, during Operation Triple Take. Officials began their initial investigation for Operation Triple Take the previous year, following the movements of DeJesus as he frequently traveled back and forth between Cartagena and Miami. Authorities found that traffickers in this ring would spread explicit sexual recordings of children and acquire new clients using a system of taxi drivers within the country. Often the children would be drugged with cocaine or 2C-D, a drug similar to ecstasy, before being exploited. These criminals even tried to sell an 11-year-old's virginity to a foreigner for up to $1,000 before the bust. When this information took O.U.R. operatives down to South America to investigate, they were introduced to Kelly Johana Suarez through other traffickers.
Suarez has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting the court's decision. However, her revolting crimes have been exposed and justice will be served. But it is a sobering reminder: trafficking is an insidious crime that can happen anywhere, and traffickers can be anyone.
Disturbing as it may be, it’s not uncommon for predators to use their own industries to drive a wedge between families. They pose as innocent "coaches" or "casting agents", and convince the children that they need to travel, starting with a short distance and then moving further away. The parents are reassured that all expenses will be paid and that their child has the potential to become a star. Little do they know, their love for their children is being used against them. The predators create a false sense of trust and legitimacy, luring their victims into their grasp. Don't let your guard down - stay vigilant and protect your loved ones from these dangerous tactics.
Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.) was not involved in the production of “Sound of Freedom”. We did not have a consulting role in the movie or have approval rights. And most importantly, we did not have any financial ownership or share in the revenue profits of the film. However, you can still make a difference in the fight to end human trafficking.