Defending Utah has a history of sometimes taking unpopular stands. Why is that? The answer is found in our motto:
“Think right and wrong, not right and left”
Those who have been with us since the beginning no longer flinch when they’re surprised at something we put out, instead they learn to ask better questions and uncover new truth.
We’ll never be perfect, and we continue to learn, but you’ll always find a relentless quest for the truth at Defending Utah.
For historical purposes, and because of recent current events, we’re making this original report on Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.) from 2015 available here for your review and direct download, by Independent Utah Journalist Lynn Packer: “Rambo Reyes and The ChildSex Slave Rescue Industry” (scroll down to see), as well as additional recent research
SOLUTIONS NOTE: What can we do about child trafficking?
With our publications and research, we always like to give understandable, actionable solutions, to the real problems that we talk about.
“I have founded, established, and served on the board of multiple non-profits, so I know from experience that the most important part of running an organization is financial/moral transparency.” – Investigation by Keli Byers
– $350k salaries?
– Saying that you’re a volunteer, when you actually get paid?
Excerpts from: “Rambo Reyes and The ChildSex Slave Rescue Industry”
Utah Journalist Lynn Packer’s original report from 2015 on Operation Underground Railroad. The full article is a thorough investigation covering many aspects of OUR’s operations, download link is provided. Here we’ve posted some highlights.
Disclaimer: The photos were the highest quality we were able to obtain from internet archives.
Rambo Reyes and The ChildSex Slave Rescue Industry
Vigilantes CutThrough Red Tape By LynnPackerMarch 31,2015
A seniorUtah assistant attorney general issaid to haveopined,“Sean Reyes has become Mark Shurtleff far faster than Mark Shurtleff.”
Yes, the same Mark Shurtleff who wore a badge and carried a concealed weapon. The same Mark Shurtleff who hired his friend toruna police force inside the AG’s office. The same Mark Shurtleff who—instead ofprosecutingsomesuspected swindlers—solicited campaign donations from them.
Where Shurtleff went onstageat asleazy multi-‐level marketingconventiontoleadcheers, Reyes went a step further when, for aweekend, he joineda private military unitto rescue purported sex slaves in Columbia, South America.Hecarried a badgebut kept it out of sight because he was undercover.AfterwardsReyessuggested Utahns donate to the group,makesappearances atitsfundraisers andpromotesthe entity to Utah police chiefs.
The Deseret Newswas among all major Utahmedia who covered the attorney general’s swashbuckling adventure:
Attorney General Sean Reyes made a secret trip to Colombia last October as part of an operation to rescue child sex slaves. Reyes made the dangerous trek with Operation Underground Railroad, a Utah-‐based nonprofit organization that works with governmentsaround the world in fighting child trafficking. . . . . . . . . The organization set up the sting by posing as wealthy investors in a cartel’s plan tobuild a child sex hotel in the Rosaria Islands off the coast of Cartagena. To celebrate the deal, they planned a party on the small island of Baru, where the traffickers would bring theyoung girls. Reyes, who speaks Spanish, played the role of translator and bodyguard for the lead investor. “I wanted to get down where I could make a difference, look evil in the eyeand stare it down,” he said.
OperationUndergroundRailroadis the brainchild offormer CIA and HomelandSecurity agent Tim Ballard. As a government employee in California hehadworked undercover to detect and arrest pornographers and sex traffickers. Ballard, a Mormon, said he was frustrated withbureaucratic limitationson which children he could save. AsLDS LivingMagazinedescribedit:
“So Ballard and his wife went to the temple for guidance. The next morning, in what Ballard describes as a “spiritual download,” he received a clear and undeniable answer: “Find the lost children.” “I knew exactly what that meant. I was to find those kids who were out of our jurisdictionalreach by starting a private, nonprofit organization. I didn’t know how, but something in Utah would lead to this.” “The family moved to Utah in the summer of 2012, and soon everything fell into place for Ballard to found Operation Underground Railroad, which specializes in rescuing children trapped in slavery. Before I left the government, I called all my contacts in other countries. I asked if they would still let me come in and operate privately, and they all said yes.” So the father of six assembled a team of former NavySEALs, ex-‐CIA agents, and otheroperatives with unique skill sets. Despite not knowing where the money would come from, networking and word of mouth quickly led to enough donations to begin operations inJanuary of 2014.
Child Sex Slave Charity Scamsand Hoaxes
Ever since [the Colombian raid] where millions of dollars began flowingtogovernment and charitable anti-‐child trafficking organizations, there have been several scandalsand hoaxes.
In 2011 the Dallas Women’sFoundationwarned that the country’shuman trafficking epidemic was going to hit the city for SuperBowl XLV. The group warned that 100,000 hookers were headed to Dallas, 38,000 of them child sex slaves.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott,U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Homeland Securityand state and local police agencies formeda task forceto stop the charge. The wave never hit. Yetfundraisers continueto repeat themyth for subsequent Super Bowls and other major athletic events. – Direwarnings aregreat fundraising tools.
The Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women, a network of nongovernmental organizations, published a report in 2011 examining the record on sex trafficking related to World Cup soccer games, the Olympics and the Super Bowl. It found that, “despite massivemedia attention, law enforcement measures and efforts by prostitution abolitionist groups, there is no empirical evidence that trafficking for prostitution increases around large sporting events.”It concluded:
Despite the lack of evidence, this idea continues to hold great appeal for prostitution abolitionist groups, anti-‐immigration groups, politicians and some journalists. The resilience of this inaccurate claim could be due to: • Its usefulness as a fundraising strategy; • Its effectiveness in grabbing the media and the public’s attention; • Being a quick, easy way to be seen‘doing something’ about trafficking; • Being a more socially acceptable guise for prostitution abolitionist agendas and anti-‐immigration agendas.
One web site establishedto debunk sextraffickingmythssaid“various anti-‐prostitution groups: Traffick911,Not for Sale, Change-‐org, Polaris Project, and theDallas Women’s Foundation…are anti-‐prostitution groups that tell lies in order to get grant moneyfrom the government and charities to pay their high salaries, and get huge amounts of money into their organizations.”
The U.S.’s Invisible Children charity (IC) is now phasing out after being accused of manipulating facts to stop Uganda’sLord’s Resistance Army (LRA)from abducting children, turning the girls into sex salves andthe boys into child soldiers.The ICcalled for the arrestof LRA leader Joseph Kony and asked forgreater U.S. involvement against the LRA.The group helped convince President Obama to sign the“Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmamentand Northern Uganda Recovery Act”and send military troops to Central Africa.The President told the people in attendance “We have seen your reporting, your websites, yourblogs, and your video postcards—you have made the plight ofthe children visible to us all,” according to a Yahoo news story.
The Washington Post recounted how IC “took the world by storm”with theviral videoit posted in 2012
The organization started after three young, inexperienced filmmakers produced a DVD whose target audience came to represent a new demographic for charitable giving: American teenagers, most notably young, white, middle-‐and upper-‐class girls and young women. Throughadeptly produced media campaigns that relied heavily on sensationalized films, a strong social media presence and regular collaboration with celebrities, their message resonatedstrongly with this demographic. The organization’s capacity for grass-‐roots mobilization on an African conflict was almost unprecedented. In doing so, they managed to bring a great deal of attention to the conflict.
But after hyping figures and misrepresentingfacts Invisible Childrenfaced a backlashand is fading into oblivion.
Even major news outlets run child slavery stories without checking the facts.In 2006 ABCNews reportedon twogirlsit said had been abducted intoprostitution. “Debbie, which is not her real name, is one of thousands of young American girls who authorities sayhave been abducted or lured from their normallives and made into sex slaves,” ABC reported. “While many Americans have heard of human trafficking in other parts of theworld-‐-‐Thailand, Cambodia, Latin America andEasternEurope, for example-‐-‐few people know it happens here in the United States.”
But, according to aCounterPunchreport, “Phoenix Police Department press releases describe Debbieas a runaway. Police spokesman Andy Hill told me earlier this week that she was having problems with her family. She left home willingly with a friend, the girlfriend of a pimp, and a few hours later was herself dragooned into prostitution.”
It wasNewsweekthatpublished what is perhaps the most publicized sex slave exposé. A cover story last yeardebunkedthe story ofSomaly Mam, aCambodianwhose 501(c)(3)foundation raisedmillions to fight sex traffickers. Amonghersupporters were presidential-‐candidate-‐to-‐be Hillary Clinton, actresses Meg Ryan and Susan Sarandon andNew York Timescolumnist Nicholas Kristof.
Mam’s autobiography, “The Road of Lost Innocence,”was an international best-‐seller. It told her story of how she was sold into sex slavery. She said her grandfather put her ina brothel where shewas forced to work ten years as aprostitute. She claimed to have been tortured with wires hooked to a carbattery.
Mamhad purported victims tellchilling storiesabout beatings andgang rapes. One claimed an angry pimp gouged out one of her eyes. Newsweek found medical records that debunked that story. Another“victim”“confessed that herstory was fabricated and carefully rehearsed for the cameras under Mam’s instruction, and only after she was chosen from a group of girls who had been put through an audition.”
As for Mam, herself,Newsweekfound a relative andchildhood friendwhosaid she spent her youth in school not a brothel.
Newsweeksaid atthe heart of the questions surrounding Mam is a debate within the nonprofit sector on the acceptable tactics for fundraising and educating the public.
Mam was also criticized for how her charity managed money.TheCambodia Daily reportedlyMam’s personalfinancial compensation rosefrom $0in 2008 to $85,000 in 2009,$96,000 in 2010, and $125,642 in 2011.Herdeputy,Bill Livermore,who later left toform his own anti-‐traffickingorganization, was paid $72,375 in2009, $166,655 in 2010 and $149,580 in 2011.
Laura Parker serves as vice-‐president ofcommunications for the anti-‐trafficking organization,The Exodus Road.TheColorado Springs, Colorado-‐based charity deploysundercover investigatorswho claim to rescuesexslaveson four continents. Parker believesthe Somaly Mam scandal was inevitable but makes anti-‐trafficking fund raising more difficult. Some excepts of Parker’s thoughts:
For two years now I have been using words (bothwritten and spoken) to tell stories and raise money for our start-‐up nonprofit. I’ll be honest, the world of fundraising is much more brutal than I expected. The soil of charitablework and mission efforts isripe for fraudulent or exploitative storytelling, and perhaps the Somaly Mam scandal is to be expected.
For me, personally, it was the moment a child finds out Santa is really just Momand Dad sneaking around after the kids are in bed. If Somaly Mam canfool the world for two decades, who can I trust in the counter-‐trafficking world?When people see that anaward-‐winning advocate can fool the world (including the experts) for two decades, public trust of charities is dealt a major blow.
The intense pressure can get nonprofit communicators into trouble; it can drive them to embellish the truth. Storytellers have learned that donors, whose financial gifts are the organization’s lifeblood, typically prefer the Hollywood story to the (sometimes) mundane reality of bringing about long-‐term positive change.
If it’s true, as Operation Underground Railroad suggests, that 800,000 child sex slaves are being trafficked into the United States every year, that’s shocking. And someone should do something about it. Which is what O.U.R. says it’s doing
If it’s not true that 800,000 child sex slaves are being trafficked into the United States every year, it’s also shocking. Shocking that anyone would raise money using misrepresentations and material omissions. And someone should do something about it.
The Utah prosecutor best equipped to handle suspected charity fundraising communications fraud and stateincometax evasioncasesis Sean Reyes. Oops.
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Defending Utah is the leading local organization working to educate citizens on the principles of liberty and expose those conspiring to take away your freedom. We do this through original investigative reports, organizing to hold elected officials accountable, and public citizen events.