Controversy Surrounding Operation Underground Railroad and Tim Ballard
Estimated read time: 8-9 minutes
Investigative Findings Question the Integrity of Operation Underground Railroad
Recently obtained investigative documents from a local and federal investigation suggest that the anti-trafficking organization, Operation Underground Railroad (OUR), may have misled donors and the public about the nature and extent of its rescue missions. The organization’s founder and former CEO, Tim Ballard, who gained recognition through his experience as a special agent with the Department of Homeland Security and the subsequent film “Sound of Freedom,” has frequently highlighted the group’s dangerous overseas operations to rescue trafficked children. However, former OUR staff members, as revealed in the investigative reports, allege that the organization is rarely involved in actual rescues, and that this misinformation could mislead donors and the public about the true nature of the group’s activities.
Reports of Misleading Donors and Pass-Through Operations
According to the investigative documents, one former OUR employee, Cherstyn Stockwell, who worked as a development director until 2019, described the organization as a “pass-through organization” that primarily donates money to other groups actually involved in rescue and aftercare operations. Stockwell claimed that the organization did not inform donors of this arrangement and instead presented itself as actively engaged in rescuing children. She further revealed that she had requested documentation to verify the number of children OUR claimed to have rescued publicly, but higher-ups within the organization never provided the requested evidence.
Shift in Operations and Exaggerated Claims
Former Navy SEAL, David Lopez, who participated in a successful rescue operation in Colombia in 2014, contracted with OUR to run operations in Haiti a few years later. He informed investigators that the organization had shifted its focus away from direct rescue operations, opting instead to provide financial support to law enforcement agencies. While the organization maintained an image of actively engaged rescue operations, Lopez expressed frustration with what he described as “massive dishonesty” within OUR. He claimed that when he confronted Ballard about this inconsistency, Ballard responded with indifference, asking, “Well, how would they find out?” These statements raise serious concerns about the organization’s credibility and ethical practices.
Inappropriate Behavior and Groping Allegations
In addition to the allegations of misleading donors and exaggerated claims, there are reports of inappropriate behavior by members of OUR. Video footage obtained by investigators reveals an undercover agent allegedly groping the breasts of an underage girl during the filming of a movie and television series related to OUR’s work. The report states that the agent claimed the owner of a strip club had placed his hands on the girl’s body. These allegations are highly disturbing and undermine the integrity of the organization.
Reliance on Psychic Sources
Another concerning revelation from the investigative documents is the claim that Tim Ballard relied on information from a paid psychic who purportedly received messages from the ancient Book of Mormon prophet Nephi. The inclusion of information from a psychic in OPER’s efforts to locate missing children raises questions about the organization’s reliance on credible sources and its commitment to evidence-based practices.
Response from Tim Ballard and Operation Underground Railroad
Tim Ballard forcefully denied all sexual misconduct allegations in a statement to KSL.com, as well as through the anti-trafficking organization SPEAR Fund, where he currently serves as a senior adviser. He described the accusations as baseless inventions aimed at destroying him and the movement. Operation Underground Railroad, in a statement to KSL.com, acknowledged Ballard’s departure from the organization, asserting that it does not tolerate sexual harassment or discrimination. The organization further reported that an independent law firm had been hired to conduct a comprehensive investigation and that it continues to reassess and improve its governance and protocols. However, the organization declined to provide any further public comment regarding the allegations at this time.
Implications and Advice for Donors
The revelations present serious concerns about the integrity of Operation Underground Railroad and its founder, Tim Ballard. It is essential for donors and the public to critically evaluate organizations they choose to support. Transparency, accountability, and a track record of actual impact should be the key factors in assessing an organization’s credibility. In the case of anti-trafficking organizations, it is critical to ensure that they follow best practices, work in collaboration with law enforcement agencies and other credible partners, and provide clear evidence of their impact.
As investigations into these allegations continue, it is important to remember that the fight against human trafficking remains crucial. There are numerous reputable organizations working diligently to combat this heinous crime. Donors should consider supporting organizations with established track records, verified impact data, and a commitment to transparency and accountability.
Ultimately, the focus should always be on the victims of human trafficking and ensuring their protection, rescue, and rehabilitation. It is imperative that all efforts to fight human trafficking are carried out with the utmost integrity and adherence to ethical standards, so that the lives of survivors can be restored and the cycle of exploitation can be broken.
<< photo by Naomi McKinney >>
The image is for illustrative purposes only and does not depict the actual situation.
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