With all the recent discussion surrounding Sound of Freedom, we’ve decided to bring back this article about one person’s real experience going undercover with O.U.R. It was originally published on Meridian in 2016.
Note: This article takes you to the scene when the author went undercover with Operation Underground Railroad to rescue children from sex slavery and is not appropriate for all readers. All the names except the author’s have been changed to protect the effectiveness of future operations. Go to ourrescue.com to learn more.
Who am I?
That’s what I’m sure they are wondering. At this moment, I’m wondering the same thing. I’m about to meet three men who traffick children as sex slaves. They are bringing their captive girls to what they think is a sex party.
I’m a greeter. As the two yellow cabs pull to the curb and doors open, I summon up a smile.
“Hola!” I call.
The men get out first, and then the girls. Despite the lipstick and the eye make-up, they look so young. Thirteen is my guess.
“Welcome to our party” I say in English. I open my arms wide. With hesitant staccato steps the nearest girl hurries toward me and, with lips puckered, stretches up to reach my face. I bend down and offer my cheek. She kisses me. Her giggle seems forced. The next girl approaches. She looks to be about ten—the age of my granddaughter. She has a short, frilly skirt and a colorful red and blue top with a plunging neckline showing that she has nothing to reveal. She comes to me with an exaggerated sashay. She reaches tippy-toe to kiss me. She’s obviously been trained as to what to do, but lacks subtlety and confidence. She kisses my cheek, then looks to the younger man to see if she did okay. With no warmth, he smiles and nods toward the door.
“Come, come.” I point up the walk to the front door we have decorated with pink and white balloons and ribbons and a sign reading “Happy Birthday!”
“Welcome to our party” I say, hoping they can’t tell I’m acting.
I turn to the traffickers. Two seem to be in their early twenties—hard to tell for sure—the other one in his forties. He is well groomed with black, short oiled hair. He’s wearing dress pants, and a white tee shirt.
They look at me and seem to be wondering, “Who is this guy?” In our team’s previous dealings with them, they’ve never seen me. I’m dressed in a white linen shirt with black casual pants and have white curly hair.
And, I know a secret—that I’m here to catch them, which if they knew, would prompt them to kill me where I stand.
Don’t dwell on that thought. I tell myself. It will show on your face. I offer my hand and give a genuine smile. “Thank you for bringing such lovely girls to our party.”
The older man introduces his younger two associates in English. He uses no names. “These are my handlers. They supervise the girls. I’m the businessman.” He then looks expectantly at me.
Who am I?
They think I’m one of fifteen pedophiles from America, paying a lot of money to purchase their child slaves for one night to do unspeakable things. We are in reality from a non-profit organization called Operation Underground Railroad. We are working with the federal police to arrest these traffickers and rescue these children from slavery.
I give the traffickers a warm handshake.
“So glad you’ve come” I say, and I mean it. “Come this way.” They size me up, looking at the sign and balloons, and seem to decide I’m not dangerous and relax. The traffickers look at each other and grin. They are expecting a huge payday!
The next cab pulls up and another right behind it. More girls, more men. I greet them all, trying to make them feel welcome while conveying a sense of excitement. We are, after all having a party. We are fifteen Americans in a Central American country and our entertainment has just arrived.
I finish my count: nine traffickers—two more than expected. That’s good. Sixteen girls—four more than we had anticipated, and that’s very good. The girls all appear to be minors as agreed upon.
As the girls, the handlers, and the “businessmen” step through the door into a nice, modern townhouse, each one is frisked to make sure there are no weapons. The traffickers were told in advance “Any weapons and the deal’s off.” Two muscular, bearded Americans, each over six feet tall, do the task. After the check is completed, the Americans grin and welcome everyone to the party.
I walk in. Everyone’s mingling. There’s a lot of laughter. Some of the girls are giving close embraces and holding on to the arms of the Americans. The room is cluttered with beer cans, half empty tequila bottles, pretzels and snacks.
I notice the ten-year-old girl shrinking back against the wall. She holds tightly to the hand of a fourteen-year-old and her lips quiver. She appears to be very frightened.
Someone yells “Let’s have all the girls go upstairs while we finish up some business.”
Becca—a smiling American woman in her late twenties—shows the children up the spiral staircase to a large room with snacks and sodas, and a music video playing on a large screen TV.
As the American customers relax in the front room, the girls’ owners are ushered through sliding doors into an out door patio with twelve-foot walls. They crowd around a table covered with thousands and thousands of US dollars. Crisp hundred dollar bills are stuffed into open envelopes with the names of the traffickers and the number of girls they brought neatly written on each. Robert starts counting out the money. They stare with naked lust at the cash.
Suddenly Robert raises his voice “Tequila for everyone!” The drinks are poured. The celebration escalates, and the party is about to start.
Barely two minutes later, the front door crashes open! Policia, with black masks covering their faces and carrying fully automatic rifles charge in, pushing the Americans to the floor. They shout in Spanish and in English “On your knees! Hands behind your head!” More flood in. Ten, fifteen, more! They wear black Kevlar helmets, black and blue camo, black gloves and black boots. “Get down! Get down! Show me your hands!”
I hold up my hands and drop to my knees. I’m pushed to the floor.
“Hands on your head! Lay flat!”
I look around. With weapons at the ready, the Policia crowd onto the patio. The men at the table sit frozen. Then chairs are scattered and the traffickers are shoved to the floor. They lay on their stomachs, hands on their head.
I yell, “I just came to a party. I don’t know anything!”
A shiny boot kicks me in the ribs. “Shut-up! I will kill you! I will kill you!” A muzzle is pressed against my shoulder. “I will kill you!’’ he threatens.
I realize that if I am going to die today, it will be now. All my senses are alert, magnified. I am aware of the movement in the room, but now, it’s just the armed men, everyone one else has fallen still on the floor. The men with the guns have absolute control. I feel the smooth tile against my face. I’m sweating profusely, my sweat puddling around my cheeks and ear. I can hear the girls screaming upstairs and a door splinter and crash. I watch an ant crawl on a crushed pretzel inches from my nose.
The armed men are grabbing the Americans, one at a time.
“This is a mistake,” I plead. “I don’t know anything!”
Hands on each side clutch my arms and lift me. I stumble, and then stand.
“Hands on your head!” a voice commands.
I obey. The one on the right squeezes three of my fingers and a handful of my hair into a fist. Bending me over at the waist, he pushes me toward the door and outside. Walking bent over with a uniformed man on each side, I’m escorted to a military-type dark blue truck with “Policia” painted on the door in white. I’m pushed into the back seat.
“Don’t talk. Put your head down against the seat in front.” Becca is jammed in beside me. Another American joins on the other side.
The masked man in camo blue climbs into the truck bed behind us. Holding his weapon, he leans against the black roll bar. He watches us through the back window and then scans the street and townhouse. A crowd is gathering.
Despite his orders, I raise my eyes and look around. Other Americans are placed in trucks. The authorities then bring out the traffickers one-by-one. They are locked in identical trucks.
I’m sure they are baffled as to how they could be so close to riches and freedom one minute, and then be arrested and heading to prison the next. Most likely, they suspect the Americans are to blame, but they witnessed us being arrested and hauled away just like them. Truly baffling.
Who am I?
Each truck lights up and sirens blare. We are driven along the street. People are standing along the way, staring. They must be wondering what’s happening in their quiet neighborhood. The trucks parade in a long line through the city. The police want the citizens to know their police force is active and diligent.
I know what is happening at the town house. A large tourist bus with soft seats and air conditioning is parking on the street. The children are just now meeting women social workers and counselors. They are explaining to the girls that they are not in trouble and that the horrible men who hurt them are going to prison and can never hurt them again. The girls are going to a nice place where they will have their own clothes and their own bed and good food. They will be safe.
There will be a few days of decompression and then a thorough evaluation. Some who have been kidnapped will be restored to their loving family who has never stopped hoping for their return. Those who are orphans who the traffickers captured on the street along with those children whose family sold them to the traffickers, will be put into a long term group home with counseling and schooling and well-trained caretakers.
In a few moments those young girls will be driven in a comfortable bus to their new, free lives.
The traffickers will be taken with overwhelming force to prison where our videos and audio recordings will leave no doubt as to their guilt and their only option will be to try to plea bargain for forty years in prison instead of life.
After weeks of careful planning with police officials, we, the Americans, will be taken directly to customs and will be home with our families by nightfall. In a few weeks, police officials and the Mayor will have a press conference announcing nine children slave traffickers have been arrested and sixteen children have been rescued. Word will instantly flash through the resort community that child sex slaves trafficking is a Police priority and no longer a risk-free crime. American and European sex tourists will be on alert that they could be caught and sent to a third-world prison. Demand will diminish instantly.
After about fifteen minutes, as the police parade continues through the city, the driver turns on the radio and cranks the music up loud. He says “You can raise your heads now.”
We look up at him and see his thumbs-up sign. Then we look at each other. We smile, and then scream! Such joy. Such sweet joy.
Who am I?
I’m a husband, a father and a grandfather.
I’m a man of God.
I’m an American.
I’m an abolitionist.
We rescue children from the worst kind of slavery.
Please help us. Please join us.
Please do what you can to rescue the children.
Go to ourrescue.com to learn how.