The article below is the personal, unedited account from Mark Mabry of his experience with Operation Underground Railroad and their mission in Colombia. Mark is a former employee of Mercury Radio Arts and TheBlaze, and he has volunteered time to work with OUR.
By Mark Mabry
To keep the deal alive, Raul ratcheted up the intensity of his texts:
I have a special gift for you Jefe. I call her “Lady”.
She is ‘fresca’.
She is a virgin, just for you.
She is eleven.
Pablo responded in kind:
I cannot wait.
This could be a beautiful arrangement.
Raul writes back:
I will not fail you boss.
I believe God has put us on this path together.
So do I.
Big child trafficking deals are actual deals just like slave trading two centuries ago. Text messages are the new quill and paper. Cell phone pictures are the new auction block.
Here are some facts of this deal.
Fact One: Pablo is actually Paul H., a billion dollar fund manager from the United States. He’s in his forties with three teenage sons…Two weeks ago he visited Colombia and was introduced to Raul at a rooftop restaurant.
Fact Two: Raul is about 31. He’s handsome, networked, and smart. He used to be involved in cyber fraud and also worked for a Latin American drug cartel until being placed under house arrest. Shortly after he was released in 2012 his cartel was wiped out by rival cartels in Mexico. He survived, disappeared into Colombia, and started to freelance in high-margin child sex trafficking and tourism. He’s a staple of the Cartagena party scene.
Fact Three: Lady, the eleven year old, really is a virgin. For over a year, Raul has fed her a steady diet of hard porn, live sex demonstrations, drugs, alcohol, promises reserved for the rich, and threats reserved for the captive. The technical term for this training is “grooming”.
Sex with a virgin child costs around $1000. After that, her rate will decrease with age. Her ability to service several clients a day will have to increase in order to capture the precious few years of youth.
10:00 AM, Saturday Oct 11: Baru Island, Colombia. Pablo waits for Raul at a remote beach house. He stands on the dock outside, his blonde hair is fund-manager standard, high and tight- he looks like Richie Rich, thirty years later, in resort wear.
10:05 Three boats pull up. Raul disembarks the 40 foot speedboat with a group of adults. He waits for the two tour boats that were traveling in the convoy to dock and empty out. Raul finds Lady and walks her down the dock to the large room designated for the kids.
Lady’s form fitting shirt reads Sleepy Head andis actually a pajama top. Her black Colombian hair is streaked with amateur pink dye. Lady is skinny, flat chested, and walks without any hip action.
Raul, wearing jeans and Sunday shoes, has only met Paul one other time, on a Cartagena rooftop restaurant about two weeks ago. Prior to that, all of the contact was with Tim, the “party organizer”who diligently learned about all of Raul’s ‘inventory’even traveling to Cartagena on numerous occasions…all to serve “Jefe”.
Raul finds Tim and Paul.
You will love Lady, but I have additional gifts for you Jefe. says Raul.
Behind Raul’s smile was a gift of four, 11 year-old virgins, (3 girls and a little boy). By today’s rates, it’s a $4000 goodwill offering.
Fuego, Raul’s street man, prods the kids toward the house…to await the party.
Paul’s 15 friends make catcalls from the beach. Music blares from a Bluetooth speaker on a card table. Some of the guys play poker and drink. One guy flies a remote control drone out over the ocean, but most of them are content to watch and snap pictures on their iPhones.
In all it was a 54 victim parade- most of them were 9th grade or under.
Raul motions to Tim, his American contact, who was brokering the deal. Send them back to prepare for the party.
Three beautiful American women escort the children back to a large room with several beds. These were the same three women who greeted and inspected the kids at the shipping dock in Cartagena 45 minutes prior. It’s customary at a child sex party to have someone to groom and clean the kids -babysit them- between sessions.
Fact Four: Tim has organized child sex excursions for about a decade. The price tag on this trip would be about $65k, not including $20,000 for a full day with 54 kids. (The actual price would have been $24,000 had Raul charged for the additional for virgins).
But before you jump to any conclusions about Tim, understand one more fact.
The sex excursions that he’s organized have all been to rescue the children and bust the bad guys. Tim founded Operation Underground Railroad (OUR) over a year ago, and the organization acts just like the name sounds. Prior to OUR, he worked in the Department of Homeland Security solving crimes against children from child trafficking to child pornography. But Tim wanted the freedom to move more nimbly and even to free kids outside of the U.S. government’s jurisdiction. So Tim left the government to push the issue faster. His speed to save has skyrocketed and the efficiency of dollars spent to children saved has increased exponentially. He was also now an equal opportunity catcher of bad guys, every body is game, not just Americans.
Increasingly donors have come forward and funded missions, some for as little as $15,000 and other missions exceeding $100,000. Every child has a price though, and in the dark world of child trafficking, a kid’s freedom -or captivity- most often comes down to the guy who can come up with the cash.
This was my second mission as an embedded journalist. My first mission was in Haiti, 6 months ago. I’m finding increasingly that “journalistic detachment” in matters involving the rape of children is a joke… and that the process of pealing back layers of child sex trafficking involves moving beyond the confusing exterior of 13 year old girls groomed for sex and dressed for the part. It involves seeing this evil for what it is, the same thing that it was for hundreds of years with African slaves… flesh selling flesh.
Tim architected this particular plan from it’s inception months ago as part of the largest one-day sting operation in child trafficking enforcement history. In fact, concurrent missions were being conducted by trained OUR operatives in Medellin and Armenia, Colombia. And so far, all three missions were going exactly according to plan.
Back on the little island, the men retired to an outdoor dining area to discuss plans for a luxury hotel built for child sex tours. Paul would finance it and Raul would run it. Seven other Colombians sat at the table too.
In addition to Raul, there was an older man, a cocaine guy.
Then there was Fuego, Raul’s street guy. Nothing was too hard for Fuego to get. He wore a Che hat at the dock. Tim congratulated him on the great hat and Fuego explained, Che was a revolutionary, so am I. I’m a revolutionary dealer of the Chicas”.
(Interesting side note, Tim traded Fuego hats at the dock that morning and wore Che for the rest of the mission.)
There was a striking Colombian woman who claimed the title, Princess of Cartagena. She was about 5’10”slender with perfect ebony skin. She walked like a Colombian woman.
The Princess had her business partner too. They were both about 25 years old. A bunch of the kids were there contribution to the day. They recruit kids from poor neighborhoods with a convincing “modeling agency”scheme throughout Central and South America.
The other two Colombians, Marcos and Hector, are Tim’s street guys. They’re locals who were there to perform due diligence on Raul’s operation and report it to Tim.
Another fact, Marcos and Hector are CTI agents.
Tim, fluent in Spanish, steered the conversation where it needed to go in order to make clear the intentions Raul and his partners.
It would be Paul’s job to talk business while Tim got what he needed. So while Paul napkinned the business model, The Princess of Colombia laid down the ground rules for the man and child orgy that would commence upon arrival of the sizeable Cocaine order.
Princess’s Rule Number One:
Several girls and one man is okay.
Several boys and one man is okay.
Boys and Girls and one man is still permissible.
But, several men on one girl or boy is not allowed.
Rule Number Two: The men must wear condoms.
When pressed on the condom issue, the Colombian men backed off with a wink, but the Princess stood by her ethics.
Those were the rules.
Tim hands $10,000 worth of Pesos to Paul, who shuffles them with his thumb. Raul, Fuego, and the other Colombian traffickers stared at the money. Paul informed them that since they seemed like stand up business people, the remaining $10,000 was on its way. It would be delivered when the party started…presumably any minute.
Back in the bedroom, most of the kids laid around. Others made last second adjustments like shaving. One boy changed into a leopard speedo. They knew the drill and were trained to act the part.
The virgins were in a different room with their American handlers. Lady was crying. The little virgin boy, face buried in a pillow, asked if anyone had cocaine or alcohol, and explained that is what they usually gave him to prepare. Jen, a trained OUR operative and deadly Krav Daga fighter, comforted him. The American women’s cover as “preppers” for the party, is standard procedure in such affairs. But these women were extensively trained in high-stress environments, their shadow role was that of comforter to the kids.
In fact, each time the 11 year olds had their moments of nervous breakdown, a woman was their to comfort them. They all sat on a bed conversing with the American women: Chelsie, Krista, and Jen. The kids were nervous expressing it through a 14 year old translator who was learning English in Jr. High.
They tried to calm the girls with assurances that they’d be okay at the end of the day. Even with the assurances however, the kids had no inkling that freedom was closing in from about a mile away.
Chelsie, is actually Chelsie Hightower, 7 season star of America’s Dancing with the Stars. She laid with her arm around one of the little girls and stroked her hair. “You’re a good girl,”she told her.
Krista, who is an RN, Crossfit gym owner, and young mother, tried to help the kids see a vision of life outside of this current hell.
Jen walked among the older kids, kept in an adjacent room, asking about their lives- all while knowing something about them that they did not know themselves. There lives were about to radically change.
Here’s another helpful fact.
Fact Five: a 30 man Colombian SWAT Team had established a 300-yard perimeter around the property. Another two boats were rapidly approaching the sand carrying 30 Colombian Army soldiers with guns drawn. C.T.I (The Colombian FBI equivalent) had replaced all of the waiters at the house and had even been on the three boats that dropped them off. Another boat full of Colombian social service and child psychologists was on its way as well.
The American I.C.E. Attaché, Fernando, stood by in Cartagena should any American support be requested. His passion for the cause is another glimmer of hope in the kids favor of which they are unaware. Tim and Fernando had worked on cases together for years.
The entire beach house was wired with mics and hidden cameras, all warranted by the Colombian government and admissible as evidence in court.
In the dining area, the sex hotel negotiations dragged on as Paul drug Raul and The Princess through the deal points yet again.
Raul, completely unaware of the approaching convoy, left the table momentarily and interrupted the girls’preparation, to show the virgins to Paul. Tim left with him.
When he reached their room, Lady was still crying.
“Wipe your tears,”Raul told her, “and smile”. She did.
Tim suggested that maybe Lady could sit this one out. She was clearly petrified.
Tim’s suggestion made Raul more determined and tension in the room rose.
Raul pulled Lady outside to see Paul. Her hands continued to shake as she sniffed, played with her long braids, and wiped her eyes.
In the dining area, she stood in front of Paul. The little boy was next to her.
“She’s okay,”Raul eyes her seriously. “She’s just excited.”
“Fine,”Paul waved them back to the room.
After the kids left, they got right back to business. Seemingly inspired by Lady’s beauty, Paul made a proposition.
“Why not $5000 for the virgins at our hotel?”he asked Raul. “People would pay it.”
“Oh yes, Jefe.”Raul nodded as he spoke.
There were other things that Raul was unaware of as well, like the fact that Tim Ballard’s sex parties always ended the same way…and that at Tim’s instruction, Paul had been stalling now for 30 minutes for operations to get in place.
In fact, Paul, both of Tim’s Colombian street guys, Jen’s husband Joe (also a deadly Krav Daga expert), and Jimi (a former Marine and the current Crossfit national brand manager) and everyone else on the island except for the 6 of the Colombian traffickers had already rehearsed this scenario. They had trained extensively for it.
And now, it was go time.
“Bring in the Vino!”Tim shouted to the waiters with a smile.
Army boats hit the beach about 100 yards away. Thirty armed agents leaped out of the boat and stormed the compound.
“Bajar en la planta!”they shouted.
Raul ran toward the beach and forrest.
Paul ran. Tim ran. Everybody scattered.
Raul was heading down the beach when Tim, still in character, grabbed his shirt and forced him to turn around… He ran with Raul (as if he knew a better escape route), right into the waiting arms of the several hidden CTI agents who were huddled at the doorway of the kitchen.
Soon, all of the Colombians and Americans were on the ground, legs and arms spread, faces in the dirt.
The Princess of Cartagena had collapsed on the table and audibly wept. Fuego hit the ground with a scowl. The drug guy tried to crawl under the table, but the bench was in his way.
“Who the hell called the cops? I knew you were a traitor Raul!” Tim yelled from the ground.
The groups were separated according to the plan laid out by the head of CTI, 24 hours prior. Colombian Child Protective services entered where the kids were sequestered and the American girls were taken out to join the rest of the team face down on the beach…arrested.
The roll of the women in the mission was to keep an eye on the children and make sure that they were okay until the arrival of the local authorities, at which point they have a scripted exit.
Flashback: Days earlier, realizing that his time under cover was growing short, and that this would likely be his last time face to face with an operation, Tim lamented, “I hate that I always leave being the bad guy to the kids. I would love them just once to know that we’re the good guys. That we were here to free them.”
After several minutes, Raul and his team were escorted off the island by a Navy boat. Tim’s jump team, called Operation Underground Railroad, wiped the sand off of their faces and embraced. They were careful not to let the kids see them celebrate, as it safer to maintain cover, but it was too late this time. Several of the girls had emerged and learned that Raul, Fuego, The Princess, her partner, and the cocaine guy were being arrested.
Inside of the room, an accidental breach of protocol, a Child Protective Services agent explained to a confused child, pointing at the women and the OUR team, “Those ones are the good guys”. Word spread and the kids began to wander out of the room. Some asked for the restroom, only so they could come out and smile and wave at the team.
Child Protective Services quickly pulled the kids back inside the room and the jump team of Americans was ushered to the boats.
…but Child Protective Services forgot something- the window.
Walking back to the boat, the American girls passed the screened window where the youngest kids were sitting. An 11 year old came and pressed her hand to the screen…others came too.
The women and girls whispered back on forth. Smiling.
Tim approached behind the American women and was granted the one thing he’d always wanted.
One little girl kept her hand on the window and he reached out to touch it. Tears flowed down her cheeks…Tim’s too. She probably didn’t realize the personal price Tim had paid to get her back home, and back into the fifth grade… unraped.
She is free…and so are her friends.
As the Operation Underground Railroad team boarded their getaway boats a noise rose from the house. Kids laughing. But with the revving engines, the noise changed…into kids cheering.
Note from the Author
I was three feet from him when Tim met the little girl at the window. I had a camera in each hand. My instinct was to shoot, but something told me to keep it at my side.
So I did.
Front page image via Mark Mabry