Tim Ballard Left Operation Underground Railroad After Investigation Into Claims Made by Employees

The anti-trafficking activist whose story was the basis for Sound of Freedom left his own organization after an internal investigation, according to a letter circulating among employees and donors.
Katherine Ballard and Tim Ballard attend the premiere of "Sound of Freedom" on June 28, 2023 in Vineyard, Utah. (Photo by Fred Hayes/Getty Images for Angel Studios)

An anonymous letter sent to employees of and donors to the anti-trafficking group Operation Underground Railroad asserts that founder Tim Ballard left the organization recently after an internal investigation into claims made against him by multiple employees—something which OUR does not dispute. 

The letter was shared with Motherboard by a person active in Utah philanthropic circles, who said that it is a topic of conversation among OUR donors. A separate source, who did not mention the letter, reached out to Motherboard last week to report that employees at OUR learned recently about an internal investigation at OUR into allegations against Ballard. 


The letter claims that an OUR employee who accompanied Ballard on an undercover operation abroad filed a complaint against him with OUR’s human resources department after the trip, and that a followup investigation culminated in his resignation.

In response to a detailed request for comment on the claims made in the letter, OUR provided the following statement:

While Tim Ballard stepped away from OUR several weeks ago, we continue to pursue OUR's core mission. We are excited that many are learning about the organization and its rescue operations and are seeking ways to support it.

Motherboard reporters responded by asking an OUR spokesperson if they disputed the information in the letter; they responded by asking for their statement to be attributed to OUR, rather than a specific individual. The reporters responded that they could only read this as confirmation of the letter’s accuracy and provided a secure means of contact through which the spokesperson could reach them to dispute their reporting without worrying that outside parties would be able to see that they’d violated confidentiality agreements. The reporters did not hear more from the spokesperson.

A representative for Ballard did not respond to requests for comment. The person or people controlling the email address from which the letter was originally sent did not respond to requests for comment.

Do you work for Operation Underground Railroad? Are you familiar with the investigation? Contact the reporters at or, or reach us on Signal from a non-work device at 267-713-9832 for extra security.


Ballard is the founder and former CEO of OUR, which claims to rescue women and children from sex trafficking. A series of VICE News investigations over the past three years has found that the organization and Ballard have a pattern of distorting and exaggerating their international rescues and their role in domestic law enforcement operations. 

Ballard himself is experiencing a particularly intense moment in the spotlight, as Sound of Freedom, the film purportedly based on his work, premiered on July 4 and became a surprise hit at the box office, with religious and socially conservative audiences being encouraged to “pay it forward” by buying multiple tickets to the movie so that others can see it. Ballard is also becoming increasingly well-known in the right-wing media ecosystem, having been interviewed in recent weeks by Jordan Peterson and Tim Pool and having appeared in a series of videos sponsored by the conservative nonprofit and advocacy group PragerU. Donald Trump, under whose administration Ballard was appointed head of an advisory group tasked with making recommendations on federal anti-trafficking policy, is also scheduled to host a screening of Sound of Freedom at his Bedminster golf club this week.


Last week OUR confirmed to Motherboard that Ballard had “stepped away” from the organization sometime prior to the launch of the film, but did not respond at the time to follow-up questions about the reason for his departure. Ballard’s departure was not publicly announced before Motherboard inquired about it, either by the organization or Ballard. A person OUR identified as Ballard’s personal PR representative—who also, according to his social media profiles, works for Angel Studios, which produced Sound of Freedom—did not respond at the time to several requests for comment. 

As VICE News has reported, a previous letter accused Ballard and the organization’s leadership of misusing donor funds and of unspecified misconduct towards women. At the time, OUR confirmed such a letter existed and was circulating, and told us, “The OUR Board of Directors received the letter 12 months ago and after a thorough investigation, found zero evidence to corroborate the allegations contained in the letter.” 

The letter circulating now alleges that the board of directors and attorneys for the organization “made agreements preventing OUR executives from discussing the results of the investigation.” 

The letter concludes by asking the people who received it to keep the information in it confidential and expressed concerns about how Ballard would conduct himself at new organizations.

In recent media appearances, Ballard has identified himself as the co-founder of the Spear Fund, an apparently new anti-trafficking group. During his appearance on Pool’s show, he appealed for donations; Pool’s own website later announced they had raised $50,000.

In an Instagram video posted Monday evening, shortly after Motherboard reached out to his representative for comment, Ballard told his viewers to “expect more lies” about him, assailing what he called the “godless leftist media” for “running interference for human traffickers” and “throwing everything at me right now.” He decried specific, ridiculous conspiracy theories he said he’d seen online about himself—accusing him of supporting the microchipping of children to support a Masonic agenda, for instance—and warned his viewers to “expect more to come.” He also posted several screenshots of media stories about OUR, including a previous story of ours, adding, “There’s nothing they won’t do to stop you from watching Sound of Freedom.”