It doesn’t always go according to plan no matter how much you prepare.
Operation Maya...The Operation That Almost Never Was
16 Rescued and 9 Arrested
Everything was planned perfectly down to the last detail, but as events unfolded, not everything went according to plan.
The rescue operation began several weeks ago, when a few undercover Jump Team members from Operation Underground Railroad were approached by a man who eventually became known as the “Fabricator.” He obviously thought these were American tourists looking for a good time. He had pictures and prices and was ready to make a deal. It almost seemed too easy for the O.U.R. Team.
It turns out that the “Fabricator” was making up the entire story. O.U.R. operatives discovered the pictures of the girls he claimed to be able to provide for the American tourists were, in fact, photos from the Internet. He had also insisted that the undercover operatives pay a deposit before any further arrangements be made. O.U.R. refused to gamble with donor money; the deal soured and everyone walked away disappointed.
Rebuilding the Case
However, the O.U.R. Jump Team was not ready to give up just yet, and they returned to the country a few weeks later. They followed secondary leads they had gained during their first visit, and the new suspects turned out to be the real deal. They not only had pictures, but also were actually able to show their victims to the O.U.R. operative. The traffickers were ready to party.
The O.U.R team leader reached out to the Latin American government again to see if they would be willing to take another chance. “He said, ‘If you guys are still ready, we’re ready.’”
The plan was to have a sex party under the guise of a 16 year- old’s birthday party.
On the morning of the operation, O.U.R. Jump team members were prepped to take down two networks of traffickers, each bringing six girls. With a last minute change of plans, several additional traffickers were invited, bringing more girls.
When the traffickers showed up, the team welcomed them in, and moved the girls upstairs to a safe room with snacks and drinks, away from any traffickers.
O.U.R. team members proceeded to make the deal with the traffickers and, once enough evidence was gathered, called in the police, who arrested both traffickers and the O.U.R. team to maintain cover.
There were 16 girls in the upstairs room, seven of which were minors. When the police came in the girls appeared very, very scared. Both police and O.U.R. jump team members did their best to help calm the girls, and let them know they were not in trouble.
Because O.U.R. already had our in-country network of rehabilitation contacts in place from an earlier O.U.R. rescue, they immediately got in contact with the authorities and were ready to assist the minute these girls got out of the custody of child protective services.
A total of nine traffickers were arrested, three were actually adolescents themselves, 17 years old. They were the brothers of some of the girls.
O.U.R. and local police were very careful to gather enough evidence during the operation to avoid any possibility of traffickers denying responsibility.
“It’s always a fine line when we walk in these situations, not knowing whether or not we will be able to pull off a rescue, so it’s a credit to our advance team who refused to give up, and when the first suspected trafficker failed to pan out they continued to ask questions,” said O.U.R.’s Jump Team leader.
According to O.U.R., “The beauty of it for the government is that they don’t have to expend any resources until we have a case for them. We do all the prep-work and use limited donor funds for maximum effectiveness.”
It’s a tricky business developing relationships, finding the right partners and rescuing the children from the grips of greedy sex traffickers. And it doesn’t always go according to plan no matter how much you prepare. Fortunately, as a result of the experience and training O.U.R. Jump Team members have, even though things didn’t go according to plan, everything ended up successful, with the bonus of additional traffickers arrested and girls rescued. Go Team O.U.R.!
*To protect ongoing rehabilitation and investigations, some names and places have been changed."