Five of Tim Ballard’s Alleged Victims Have Filed a Lawsuit Against Him

The founder of the anti-trafficking group OUR has been sued by several accusers, who say he used their faith and visions from a psychic to sexually coerce them.
Tim Ballard and Katherine Ballard
Tim Ballard poses with his wife Katherine on the red carpet for Sound of Freedom. Photo via Getty Images 

Tim Ballard, the founder and former head of the anti-trafficking group Operation Underground Railroad whose heavily fictionalized exploits were the subject of this summer’s surprise box-office hit Sound of Freedom, has been sued in Utah’s Third District Court by five women accusing him of sexual misconduct.  The Utah news outlet KSL was the first to report the filing. An accompanying press release issued by their attorney, Suzette Rasmussen, reports that additional suits are likely to be filed by more women in the coming month. 


“The tragic irony is not lost on these five women,” Rasmussen wrote in the press release. “Tim Ballard literally trafficked them for his own sexual and egotistical gratification.” 

In the suit, the women, who all live in Utah, and who filed the suit using initials to protect their privacy, accuse Ballard in detail of “coerced sexual contact.”  The suit alleges that Ballard and/or the co-defendants have committed sexual assault and battery, conspiracy, fraud, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and “outrage,” and accuses OUR of failing in its fiduciary duties, asking for a trial by jury and damages in an amount to be proven at trial. 

The central allegations have to do with the so-called “couples ruse,” which is described in the suit as “a tool for sexual grooming.” 

Since the allegations of sexual misconduct were first reported on by VICE News and Utah journalist Lynn Packer, Ballard has insisted, for instance in a lengthy Instagram video, that the couples ruse, in which a male undercover operative is accompanied by a female one posing as his wife, is simply a tool to rescue children and keep operators from having to engage in the sexual abuse of alleged trafficking victims.

In reality, the lawsuit alleges, Ballard used it to select women with no paramilitary training who he knew were devoted to the anti-trafficking cause and invite them on missions. At that point, the suit alleges, he would begin insisting that he and his couples ruse partner had to build physical “chemistry” to fool traffickers, and would begin inviting them to shower together, participate in couples massages, “tantric yoga” and lap dances on Ballard’s lap. (Several of these allegations were first reported on by The Blaze last week. The Blaze's founder, conservative media personality Glenn Beck, also founded the Nazarene Fund, where Ballard was CEO until this summer. TNF and Beck are not named in the suit.) Ballard left OUR this summer following an internal investigation. The organization has been investigated for allegedly misleading donors and lying to the public about their work; that investigation was closed in May with no charges filed against anyone connected to OUR.  

Screenshot from lawsuit

A portion of the lawsuit.

The suit also alleges that Ballard pressured women into going to strip clubs in Salt Lake City with him, supposedly to practice couples ruses, where he would “ingest alcohol and pills” on “OUR’s dime with donor monies.” (Ballard is a devout Mormon; members of the LDS faith are instructed to abstain from alcohol.) The suit alleges that he told the women that if they had to drink alcohol in these situations, Ballard told them to take the drink and then “kiss him and spit alcohol into his mouth, and he would spit it out when the traffickers were not looking.” (The suit also accuses Ballard of generally drinking to excess, and says he missed a speaking engagement “several weeks ago” because he was, it alleges, “drunk and missed his flight.”)

The suit names a slew of co-defendants alongside Ballard, including Operation Underground Railroad, Children Need Families (an adoption grant organization founded by Katherine Ballard, Tim’s wife), the SPEAR Fund (a new anti-trafficking group for which Ballard has said he is a senior adviser), Liberty and Light (a Utah organization that appears to be the entity behind the SPEAR Fund), and three Utah shell companies that have been associated with Ballard: Rockwell Group Inc., Deacon Inc., and Slave Stealers LLC. The suit also names members of OUR’s board and Janet Russon, the purported psychic medium whose “intelligence” was used to carry out ineffectual missions for OUR and who was, the suit says, complicit in Ballard’s abuse. 


The suit alleges that Tim Ballard began claiming that President M. Russell Ballard, a powerful figure in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, had “given Ballard permission to do the couples ruse  as long as there was no sexual intercourse or kissing on the lips, and had given him a special priesthood blessing as such.” The church did not immediately respond to a request for comment on either this claim or the suit’s claim that Ballard has been excommunicated due to the couples ruse, but in September it issued a stinging rebuke to Ballard in a statement to VICE News, saying that he had “betrayed” his friendship with President Ballard. (The two men are not related.) The church said that Ballard had used the apostle’s name for his own “personal advantage and activity regarded as morally unacceptable.” While the church did not specify at the time what “morally unacceptable” activity was being referred to, that language is usually used to refer to sexual immorality. 

The suit also alleges that Ballard would tell the women that Janet Russon, the psychic, had told him that they had been “married to them in a previous life, and so their conduct was appropriate.” (Russon has previously declined to comment on her time at OUR when reached by VICE News, and told us she signed an NDA precluding her from speaking about her work there. OUR told us in a statement last month that she left OUR soon after Ballard did.) The suit also alleges that Ballard would tell the women that if his wife Katherine were to die, “he would immediately marry them.” 

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In perhaps its most jawdropping allegation, the suit accuses Ballard of issuing prophetic revelations while he received “ketamine treatments.” It alleges that he would “talk to the dead prophet Nephi and issue forth prophecies about Ballard’s greatness and future as a United States Senator, President of the United States, and ultimately the Mormon Prophet, to usher in the second coming of Jesus Christ.” 

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The suit alleges that Ballard would give the women burner phones to communicate and insist they regularly delete their messages with him and would tell the women that he was “tracking them” with those phones. He is also alleged to have told the women that they had to stay silent about their sexual activity in order to save children. 

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The suit alleges that “at least two marriages were broken up” due to Ballard’s conduct with these women, that Ballard “offered to pay for the divorce attorney” for one, and that he “had a henchman call and threaten her husband on voice message,” resulting in a police investigation. (The suit doesn’t detail who the supposed “henchman” was or the outcome of the investigation. VICE News has previously requested police or incident reports in the jurisdiction where Ballard lives mentioning him, and has been told by authorities that there are none.) 

The suit is the latest in a swift and stunning reversal of fortune for Ballard, long a prominent figure in anti-trafficking circles, and in Utah more broadly. It was filed on October 9, the day before Ballard was said to be planning to announce a bid for U.S. Senate, in the seat recently vacated by Mitt Romney. One of Ballard’s biggest supporters in the state, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes—who has himself gone on missions with OUR—said recently that in light of the allegations, he wouldn’t support Ballard in a Senate run. 


Ballard has not yet responded to the lawsuit; a representative did not respond to a request for comment from VICE News.  Representatives for Operation Underground Railroad also did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The lawsuit can be read in full below.

Update, 12:44 p.m.: After publication, OUR provided the following statement to VICE News:

O.U.R. reached out multiple times to Ms. Rasmussen to engage with her and hear her client’s concerns, but she seemed intent on litigating her client’s issues in a public forum. Now that O.U.R has reviewed the Complaint, it categorically denies the allegations as they relate to O.U.R. Moreover, Ms. Rasmussen’s characterizations of the Board’s intentions and actions are entirely misguided and speculative.  O.U.R. looks forward to the litigation process and is confident that the truth will prevail. 

O.U.R. has taken strong measures to ensure objectivity in every step of this process and it remains committed to doing so in order for the focus to return to the children as soon as possible. 

O.U.R. is confident in its future as the leading organization committed to combatting sex trafficking and saving children who have been captured and sold into slavery.