Introducing Slave Stealer Podcast host Timothy Ballard.

Tim rescues children from sex traffickers. His nonprofit rescue organization, Operation Underground Railroad, apprehended 86 child traffickers in 2015 alone. In the process they set free over 123 survivors- sparing countless others in the process.

In this episode, Tim opens up about life outside of trafficking and the case that nearly caused him to walk away. He talks about family, sanity, and the song that kept him in the fight.

Full Transcript

Welcome to Slave Stealer podcast. This is Tim Ballard here with Mark Mabry.

Mark: Hello!

Tim: And, we are here to talk about slavery, that thing that you thought had been eradicated, that thing that you thought that had disappeared with Abraham Lincoln. What if I would tell you that there were more people in bondage today than ever before. And, I am talking about the 350 years of the transatlantic slave trade. You can add up all those slaves, every single one of them over that almost 400-year period. And, compare that number to the number of slaves today in existence: people in bondage being sold for slave labor, for sex: children, women, men. The number is higher today; it is over 30 million. This is a major problem. Why are we talking about this?

Mark: But wait, you heard Trump’s speech about it, right?

Tim: Yeah, that long windy speech, and all the solutions, and Hillary Clinton, as well, talking about it. I mean this just, this is obviously of major import to all the candidates, to solve this slavery thing. I sit back and I watch these presidential debates, and I want to go vomit in my toilet, because I can’t even fathom why we’re not talking about the one thing that is plaguing this earth more than anything, anything at all. I listened to this morning on the radio, the whole time I was listening to climate change, and this and that, whatever else. And, I’m thinking “There are 30 million people who are in slavery, and we don’t even talk about it.” We think we are so advanced from the nineteenth century: “Oh, those people back in those days, they didn’t know straight up what was moral and what was right. They had slavery happening under their noses.” Isn’t it so ironic?! Isn’t it crazy?!

Mark: I think what you’re feeling is white guilt.

Tim: Why is that? Expand upon that thought.

Mark: Well, you’re highly educated, and so, you are doing the only thing you know how to do to get kids out of slavery, and that is make a podcast and throw the system under the bus. Unless you really are doing something about it.

Tim: Well, that is interesting, you should talk about that, let’s bring that up. Actually, we are here broadcasting from the headquarters of Operation Underground Railroad, a foundation that I founded two years ago. I have spent twelve years as a special agent and an undercover operator working for The Department of Homeland Security. And, I get it, I understand, I don’t mean to be such a jerk about people who aren’t talking about it, because I do get why people don’t know it is there. I didn’t know it was there. I didn’t know, I didn’t want to see it. Even when I was a government agent I didn’t want to see it. In essence, I was forced into it. I was forced to look at it, I was forced into it. And then, once I saw it, that is when I became absolutely just astonished. So, for twelve years working for the government, dealing with this and recognizing that, like any major social plague, the government is never the answer. It is an answer, it is one of the answers, but it is never going to be the thing that creates the ample solution. It has to be societal, it has to be a movement, it has to be everybody. And, there is a glaring lack of private sector solutions to this problem, which is why I left the government to create a private sector solution. And that is Operation Underground Railroad. My organization exists of former Navy SEALs, former CIA, former law enforcement military. We create these teams, and we go down working always with governments. We help them, and we facilitate investigations, arrests, prosecutions, and most importantly, the liberation of children, mostly children, who have been enslaved. Whether it’s sex slavery or slave labor.

Mark: You have a pretty rough-and-tumble group. I mean, you have got special ops guys. What would really put the cherry on the top is if you had a former photographer on that team.

Tim: Yeah, that would help out.

Mark: Because that always makes the team stronger.

Tim: That would help out. So, that’s Mark Mabry self-promoting, everybody! So, let me tell you that he is..

Mark: Yes, sir!

Tim: He is the photographer, and this is an interesting story; it is an important story. So, Mark Mabry, who’s my co-host here on Slave Stealer podcast – I met Mark…How long has it been? Three years?

Mark: Three years.

Tim: Three years.

Mark: -ish.

Tim: And, how did we meet, again? What were the circumstances?

Mark: I was working at the Blaze, as creative director at the Blaze. Tim had just shellacked one of my books in a review.

Tim: That’s right!

Mark: And, Tim shows up because he had written a book on American history called ‘The American Covenant’. And, he was coming to be on the Blaze network, and I met him in the parking lot. I wasn’t aware that he had written this book review, because…

05:27 Tim: I was aware!

05:27 Mark: The only thing less read than my book was his review, apparently. He was aware, Tim was aware. And, we met in the parking lot and he goes, ‘I just got to break the ice.. I blew up your book’, and it was a book with PBS.

05:46 Tim: What you have to understand is, after I finished the review, there were three authors, but one of them said Mark Mabry, and I was like “Oh, crap!” I finished the review like a week before I went to the Blaze, and, I thought “What are the chances that I run into this Mabry guy? Probably slim to none.” Sure enough, the producer that I was meeting in the parking lot, he came to meet me, and he had this guy next to him, and he introduced him as Mark Mabry. My stomach just dropped, I’m like “No!”

Mark: This is awkward.

Tim: This is the one guy I am not supposed to meet, and here he is! And, I just said ‘You know what? I’m gonna diffuse the bomb: I read your book, I gave it a very poor review, except, whoever your photographer was, was pretty awesome. That’s the only thing your book did that’s worth anything’. And, then I learned that, in fact, Mark Mabry was ..

Mark: I just get it for the pictures.

Tim: …the photographer! So, in the end it ended good, and we parted as friends. And, then what happened, as I was talking to Glenn Beck – who as many of you know, runs the Blaze Network – about my life outside of writing books, we started talking about trafficking, and how really what I did for living was go undercover and try to infiltrate black market trafficking rings where kids are being sold, and so forth. And, it was actually Glenn who did a lot to encourage me to leave the government position, and he helped a lot in getting his audience supporting us. That allowed us to move out and provide a private sector approach to this problem. And, what we did was we tapped Mark Mabry. Mark, in addition to many hats he wore, the Blaze one was basically, as Glenn called him, his war correspondent. So, Glenn sent Mark to come out, and it was a smart move to make sure we’re legitimate. I mean, who knows what we were doing out in these countries, and if Glenn was going to promote us ‘Hey, let’s bring this guy, we love it’, it allows us to have outside validation. And so, Mark, I think you’ve been on pretty much almost every single operation.

Mark: I’ve been on a lot ops. Now, let me tell you, before this story ends with meeting Tim, we shared Bill Clinton’s bed.

Tim: This is a true story.

Mark: In Haiti. We hit it off, we were about the same age, exact same cultural references, and we get to this place in Haiti. Now, I had 6 hours notice. I’m sitting there on Sunday, Tim texted me, and goes, “Want to go to Haiti?”, “Sure! When?”, “8 o’clock.”

Tim: That’s how we roll.

Mark: That’s how we roll.

Tim: With a jump team we just move quickly.

Mark: Yeah, and we move.

Tim: There’s little time to notification.

Mark: We get to Haiti. We’ve got a suite, and it’s big and beautiful, because the ruse was rich people showing up to buy kids from this dirty orphanage. And we couldn’t get into the room, even though the prior guest had checked out, and we did a little digging and come to find out that Bill Clinton had stayed there the night before until he was wheels up.

Tim: There were literally secret service agents still walking around the suite. We were trying to get in, and they were keeping us out, because they couldn’t let us in until he was, like you said, wheels up and in the air. But we were just like we were staying in Bill Clinton’s bedroom.

Mark: Yeah, and, we had one big, huge room for, I think, like nine guys, and one girl, she had a room, all the guys are sharing a room. Guys are on couches, floors, whatever, because we were there to save kids, and we can’t spend a ton of money, and there’s one really big bed. Tim goes “Hey, want to come in my room?” “Sure!” I walk in. It’s sure enough Bill Clinton’s king bed. So, first day.

Tim: And we both jumped in it.

Mark: First day. Of course, I couldn’t sleep that night, because I didn’t know much about child trafficking. All I knew was, I want to come on this, and I want to learn, and I want to report. And, it was that trip that Tim started to tell me a story. Today, we’re gonna turn the tables on Tim a little bit, and ask him the questions. The show is going to be typically in interview format, where we bring in a guest and talk to them about trafficking, and actually ask them to take action steps to end it. And we’ve got some good ones lined up. But today, I want you to have a little bit of what I had in Haiti. So, I’m going to ask Tim to tell me some stories, starting with this: tell me, what were you working on before child crimes?

Tim: You know, for years I wanted to be a special agent in the Government, since I was about 19, 18 years old. I just decided.

Mark: You just wanted the outfit?

Tim: I just wanted the gun.

Mark: Cool.

Tim: To be honest with you. But what I wanted to do was chase narco traffickers, terrorists, money launders. I wanted to do kind of those more traditional crimes that you see, and want to attack. Everything I did was to study for that, I prepared for that. I went to my undergrad, my grad school. Everything I did was in furtherance of that goal. I only got to do it for about 6 months, working in narco trafficking. I was in the best office I could have dreamed of. I love Hispanic culture. I’ve lived for two years in Chile, I speak Spanish. I wanted to be international, which is why I chose the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations. My office was literally right on the border, like if I put my hand out of the window I’m in Mexico. I was right on at the port of entry. I looked out the window and saw a Mexican flag waving. I was just..that was my element. I was able to work cases, drug cases, arms smuggling. Those tunnel cases, I’ve been inside those tunnels, crawling around, tunnels that were created by narco traffickers under the border, under the fence.

Mark: Is it really there?

Tim: Oh absolutely! Yeah!

Mark: That’s cool.

Tim: We uncovered all sorts of tunnels at the border. So, in Calexico, in California, in Cali, Mexico. But I only got it to do it for about 6 months, and I was called in and I was asked if I would help start a child crimes unit. My stomach just dropped..because I knew that was out there, but like most people, I wanted to ignore it. My wife and I actually had a deal that I would never work in child crimes. That was the one area that we would not work in.

Mark: Did she initiate the deal?

Tim: I think I came home from the Academy – you’ve got to understand that even in the early 2000s, there wasn’t even a whole lot of training going on, there wasn’t a whole lot of cases, we were way behind, everybody’s behind. The U.S. is generally out and front, and it is on this problem, but even the U.S. is behind. I mean, the fact that we are just creating anti-trafficking groups, anti-child crime groups, the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces. This is all happening in the early to mid 2000s.

Mark: Was there, before they asked you to be on it, a child crimes division? Was this just local?

Tim: No.

Mark: Or was this a national child crimes group that was started?

Tim: This was local, but it was kind of falling in the pattern of national task forces that were in existence. But no, there really wasn’t. So, I had one day in the Academy from the Homeland Security, I think I had, seriously, one day, maybe half a day, to deal with child crimes. I came home that night and told my wife “Yeah, we did this weird thing, they showed us what I thought was child pornography.” I am telling you it was the mildest form that you could possibly present to somebody to kind of desensitize this. When I got on with the real thing, it was like that was nothing. But, we sat then right then and there, it might have been Catherine, my wife, who started off and said, “Well, you’re not ever gonna work in that field anyway. So, who cares about this 8-hour training you’ve got.” And I said, “You’re right, I’m not going to do that. We promised each other.” We had two kids at the time, they were little. “We can’t…who knows how will that affect your brain. You’ve got to wade through the sewer to catch these guys, who wants to wade through the sewer”. So, when I was asked to be in this group some six months after getting out of the Academy, I was like, it was like a joke.

Mark: Take me into the conversation, like be in the conversation for a minute.

Tim: So, I’m sitting there in boss is a guy who’s now retired, his name is Larry Frost. 6’4”, big white hook mustache, a cowboy on the border, you know, seasoned, seasoned a professional law enforcement guy. I was frankly a little intimidated of him, of this guy. I didn’t really know him that well, he was just a kind of overbearing looking kind of guy. So, when he called me in, I was a little bit like “why does he want to talk to me, what’s going on.” He said, “We’re starting a child crimes unit, I’m going to be a supervisor, I’d like you to join it. There’s only going to be a couple of people doing this.” And he starts talking to me about how heinous it is. He told me that the first child crime he ever worked, he ended up walking out of the perpetrator’s house, and he literally ripped the door off the hinges as he walked out and threw the door on the lawn, on the front lawn. And this guy is big enough to do that. He said, “This is tough, this is tough mentally, emotionally”.. He said, “I know something about, I know you are a man of faith.” I didn’t know he knew anything about me, and I said, “Well, I am.”

Mark: He’s a freaking investigator. Of course he knows.

Tim: Of course, I should have known.

Mark: Yeah.

Tim: He said, “You are a praying man,” and I said, “Yeah, I am.” He said, ‘Well, that’s why I need you to do this.”

Mark: That was the interview?

Tim: That was the interview. I told him I have to think about it. I went home, talked to my wife. We prayed, fasted, meditated over this. And, here’s my wife, again, she said, “There is no way you are doing it, there is NO WAY you are doing this!” I said, “You are right, I will tell him in the morning”. I didn’t want to tell him, but I was going to tell him in the morning. Then we went to bed, and that night was a long night, a restless night, and I woke up thinking, looking myself in the mirror, rehearsing my speech that I’m going to turn down the offer.

Mark: Give me the speech.

Tim: This man, Larry Frost..The speech was something like ‘I’m not going to do this’, and then I run out and slam the door.

Mark: Ripped the door out of its hinges and threw it on the front lawn.

Tim: Can I get my car and drive away, before he can come and smash my head. So, before I leave, my wife grabs me and she says, ”For the same reason I thought you can’t do this, that we have kids, that’s the very reason I need you to go in there and tell them you are going to do this, because we know what innocence this is. We know what a child’s life is supposed to look like. If there are kids out there that don’t have anything close to that, frankly, the opposite of that, that they’re in hell, and you’ve been asked to help them get out., how can we say no?” But, she said “I have full veto power, I can pull the plug on this anytime, no questions asked.” And, I had to agree to that. “If I sense one thing is off in you mentally, emotionally, I’ll pull the plug, no questions asked, you are out of the group.” I said, “Done.” So, I went back to Mr. Frost and I sat down, and I said, “I’ll do it under the condition that my wife can pull the plug at anytime.” He says, “No problem, welcome to the group, go back and..”, essentially gave me a hard drive, and said, “Go back and look into this hard drive, and tell me what you think.”

Mark: Wow..

Tim: And, I’m like “what’s going on..”

Mark: I don’t really want to ask what was on that hard drive.

Tim: Well, I’m going to tell you. I’m going to tell you, the audience, a lot of things that you probably don’t want to hear. And I think that it is going to be hard. I am not going to destroy your minds, ok? But you need to know what’s going on. If we are ever going to get this kids out of this, you need to know what’s going on, you have to have your conversion into the church of trafficking, as Mark pointed out that he had his. You need to understand, and please don’t turn us off because you are afraid. Be strong for these kids. If you are strong and you let yourself become converted to this cause, you have no idea how much power you have to actually liberate these kids. We all need to rise up.

I put in the hard drive.  What I saw I will not even try to explain – it’s something that I thought was impossible. I’d never…frankly, I’d never thought anything of it. It’s so outside the realm of reality, or my reality or possibility, that this wouldn’t even come into my mind. Whatever it was they showed me at the Academy was nothing, that was like a walk through Disneyland compared to what I was looking at on this hard drive. So bad, in fact, that I keeled over and began vomiting into the trash can under my desk. And I thought, “How can people do this to other people? And not just other people, but to children.” And when I say children, I’m talking about the average age of the kids in the videos I was watching was seven years old. What I was looking at was the perpetrator’s hard drive that he had, that recently had been seized, and was being analyzed for evidentiary value and purpose, and so forth. Frost was seeing if I could take this. He knew that half his team would come running back, saying, “I’m out, I’m out!” It was very difficult, but I decided I was going to stick with it. My first several cases were dealing with this, with child pornography.

Mark: But, before we move on, you vomit, you’re laying on the floor, this thing is playing on the computer, I imagine this section of the office that is like you don’t just walk into, it’s a special office.

Tim: Oh yeah. It’s a special office, closed, code, yeah..

Mark: How did you, I mean did you just get up off the floor and finish the job there, or…?

2Tim: No, I did not. I turned it off, and I drove to my kids’ school. I checked them out of school, took them home and hugged them, and cried… Then, I went back the next day and tried again.

Mark: Same drive.

Tim: Yeah. It was interesting. She knew that I was struggling with something.  It wasn’t something I could talk about. And frankly, I think it was something she didn’t want to hear, because there are no words, there are no words for that. I think what she did was very wise that she just did nothing, just hugged me. She knew, she knew that it was my first day in this, and she was just going to keep observing and supporting me. And then I learned how to cope, how to be able to look at it, analyze it, write up reports.

Mark: Clinically.

Tim: Right! That’s how you do this.

Mark: Completely detached.

Tim: You have to learn how to detach yourself. It is impossible, really. I mean, there is every now and then, I would see even months into this, even years into this, I would see an image or a video that reminded me of one of my children, and then I’m back to that school and check my kids. I went to my kids’ school quite a bit in that first year, took them out. That’s my gut reaction every time: “Where are my kids? I’m taking them home.”

Mark: The front-desk lady was like, “Man, keep an eye on this Ballard guy, he’s creepy.”

Tim: Yeah, he’s creepy. He comes in with tears in his eyes every sixth day and takes his kids away. So, that was kind of my introduction. And the truth is, probably more than half of the agents that get assigned to these groups don’t last for long. It is very, it is very difficult. You go to the darkest place. But we got even darker…I mean, I can tell you story after story of these child pornographers, just evil, evil people who just get off on this stuff.

Mark: And for the record, it is not just like naked kids dancing around.

Tim: Oh no..

Mark: It’s hard rape, violent with infant videos.

Tim: That’s right.

Mark: Also it should be stated that you are trained, you have undergone psychological evaluations regularly during the course of this, and child pornography, even viewing of it, posession of it, is highly illegal. So, we’re not saying, “Hey, listener, go see if you can stomach this.”

Tim: Oh no, if you do that, we will come and arrest you. Which is why we don’t need to get into too many details of what it is, but just they need to know, you need to know, everyone needs to know that there’s that much suffering going on with children, and because we are their only hope. When I say we, I mean everybody. These are everyone’s kids. Any child, I don’t care what country, what nationality, you’re everyone’s child, especially if you are being abused by one of these people we call adults, who are supposed to be taking care of you.

Mark: How does this tie to slavery though? We use the word slavery.

Tim: Sure.

Mark: And I’m picturing Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Tim: That’s right. So, slavery is.. can be kind of a fluid term, I suppose. But to me slavery is when you are being controlled by somebody else. Someone else is controlling you, and making you do things that you otherwise wouldn’t do, that you don’t want to do. These children…There’s nothing, I can’t think of a.. if there is a stronger word than slavery, I’d use it. But when you are taken captive and abused in that way, you are something worse than a slave. And that slave owner is something worse than a slave owner. It is subhuman, it is a monster. You are a monster. Not that the slave owners in the nineteenth century weren’t monsters, I’d call them monsters as well. It is absolutely… it is slavery. It is not just the images. And see, this is where my career took me to a whole new level, is when I started working cases that went beyond the images, but brought me to the children themselves. The children who are in the videos, that is always the goal: “How can I find this child?” And because of the many bureaucratic restrictions and the inability to move freely as government agents, because of so many restraints – many of which were understandable, jurisdictional restraints – we couldn’t just go 100% and try to find these kids. Especially when the kids were foreign. That would take a lot of resources and creativity and thinking outside the box to go and find where they are, where were they taken to, where were they filmed, so this child pornography could be utilized.

Mark: And if you couldn’t tie it back to the American, you didn’t have any interest in the case.

Tim: That’s right. If we found a case with no connection back to the United States, often the best we could do was to send a lead to a foreign government that, frankly, didn’t have the resources or the skill set to really dig in and rescue the kids. You can only take that for so long, before you feel the need to burst and do something different, which is I hit that breaking point, eventually, where I thought that we could fill a need that wasn’t being filled. Again, nothing anti-government here. The U.S. Government has done amazing things to combat this problem, amazing things. I’m proud of the U.S. Government for what they have done. But where I saw the need was in places where the U.S. Government or any other government couldn’t fill, it wasn’t their mandate to fill, they weren’t structured to fill in this way. So, that’s why I eventually left. But before I did, I had these experiences. I think, what I call my Harriet Beecher Stowe experience, happened a year or two into my new assignment working in the Child Crimes Unit. What happened was, it started with a piece of child pornogrpahy video with this 5-year-old boy being abused in the worst way.

Through some miracle, this little boy was located, identified, and his capturer detained at the Mexican – U.S border.

Mark: Were they taking this kid back and forth?

Tim: Yeah, the kid had been kidnapped, and he has been taken back and forth, him and his sister were taken back and forth. This kid was 5, his sister was 12, they’re Mexican children.

Mark: Taken into America to be raped, and then back to.. What was the kid’s life like?

Mark: Well, turns out that the child’s mother was in jail in Mexico for murder, father was a narco trafficker in Culiacan, Mexico.

Tim: And those were the good guys compared to the dude that had the kids?

Tim: That’s right. You’d rather them be with their parents, for sure. So, the grandmother took the kids, and she, the grandmother, was an illegal immigrant, who got herself smuggled into the United States. She paid someone to smuggle her in, and she lived there with these two little kids, who were also illegal. They lived in the apartment of a man, owned by a landlord named Earl Venton Buchanan.

Mark: That just sounds creepy.

Tim: Earl Venton Buchanan.

Mark: Cue the freaking music.

Tim: That’s right. And, he has, in essence, made an offer to a lot of the poor immigrants, who lived in his slumville apartments, and said, “Look, I could give you a deep discount on these apartments, I could also call immigration. I could do either of these two things. And what lies in the balance here is your willingness to let your kids come and spend every weekend with me at my compound, at my home.”

Mark: There were more than these two kids, or this is just a special day?

Tim: Oh, absolutely, there were around twelve kids all together. What he had was a house that was built into a larger warehouse. This guy had a lot of money, very wealthy guy, had houses in Arkansas, California, Mexico. Inside that house he had closed-circuit cameras in, including bathrooms. Inside that house there was pornography all over the place, toys; it’s how you desensitize the kids. And then these kids, he brings these kids.

Mark: So, these kids were looking at the porn playing with the normal kid toys?

Tim: That’s right. He had video games, little arcades, some of the kids were really young, like younger than 5 even.

Mark: Were there drugs at the place?

Tim: There were, yeah, because he would drug them up. He would drug the kids up. So, he actually had pharmaceuticals, control substances that he could use, because in the video I’m talking about the little boy was totally drugged up.

Mark: This is in California?

31:58 Tim: Yes, in California, San Bernardino county.

Mark: Ok.

Tim: So, this little boy is at the mercy of this man. And, the interesting part of the case was, this was over the July 4th weekend, that he decided to go to Mexico and take his play-thing with him, which is this boy.

Mark: So, he travelled with the kid.

Tim: He would always take one or two kids when he traveled, because that’s his play-thing.

Mark: Was the man a Mexican national or American citizen?

Tim: American. 100% American.

Mark: He is just an old American.

Tim: Old American dude, white hair, white moustache. You can go google him, you can look him up.

Mark: Maybe we will put him up to

Tim: Put him up, yeah.

Mark: Earl Venton Buchanan?

Tim: Earl Venton Buchanan, yeah. There’s all sorts of media on this guy.Yeah, absolutely.

Mark: Awesome, alright, we’ll post it.

Tim: So, what happens is an agent or an officer, a Customs and Border Protection officer, this van comes rolling through, it’s the night of July 3rd, and he thinks something is not right. Oh, before I get into that, I was telling you about the sister: he grabs this little boy, he says, “I’m taking him,” the sister knows what’s going to happen to him, because it happens to her a lot.

Mark: She has seen it live.

Tim Yeah, it has been done to her too. And, she later talks about this, she has this necklace that she would always give to her little brother. A little necklace that has the words ‘Man of God’ on it, referring to this little boy who needs to be a man of God, because all they have is God. The scripture reference.

Mark: Do you know where she got it?

Tim: Oh, it’s like a nickle and dime store, like dog tag necklace. Cheap, cheap little thing.

Mark: The scripture reference.

Tim: It was a sign. I talked to her later, and she had the scripture reference. I talked to her later and she said that this was their hope, it was like the rosary, if you will, like their prayer, their hope that someone, somehow this little boy would be rescued. So, fast-forward, the little boy is at the port of entry, and the Customs and Border Protection agent, he told me, “Look, I don’t know why I put him in secondary, something…’ There was no reason, there was nothing obvious, he said, “The hair on the back of my neck stood up, and I sent the guy to secondary.” Once he had him in secondary, he starts opening up and looking through, and he sees videos. One of those videos is children being abused by this man.

Mark: So, he is watching the videos as the…So, detained at the border secondary, is that second level of search.

Tim: Right.

Mark: Where they cut into your seat cushion and stuff, right?

Tim: Hardly. They do sometimes yeah, but they don’t, generally.

Mark: So, he’s detained there, they find videos, they’re looking at them, border guards now hurling in the trash, probably.

Tim: Yeah, they can’t believe this, and they call me. I’m in the Child Crimes group. My job is to go down and pick up the investigation and run with it. The customs guys, they investigate initial things on the border, they don’t go outside the border. So, I get down there, I look at the video and I’m just like vomiting, like this is unbelievable. I go interrogate the guy hands up. It’s him, you know… But more importantly the little boy… the first time I see this little kid, he runs to me. I’m the first guy there. I didn’t do anything amazing on this case, I was just the first guy there, I’m just the guy that showed up. He kind of instinctively knew that we were the good guys. And he comes running and just grabs me, and he is shaking and he is holding me. I’m thinking “this kid probably doesn’t speak English…” He’s shaking and he says to me, in a very clear voice, in English, no accent: “I don’t belong here”. I know exactly what he meant. He was so scared that he was going back into the evil grasps of this man, Earl Buchanan. And I’m just holding this kid, thinking “What am I going to do?” and I start crying like a baby. I’m just holding this kid, and I’m just crying.

Mark: There’s very cop of you. Way to keep it together, Tim.

Tim: That’s right. Luckily, all the other cops had tears in their eyes too, so I didn’t feel so bad. So, we are able to – this is July 3rd, I mean all this was going on July 3rd. So, July 4th, Independence Day, we were able to get all the intelligence we need from the van, write search warrants – I wrote the search warrant all night, all night, I think I finished at 3:00 in the morning – wake up a judge, have him sign, and, boom, we hit that house on July 4th, Independence Day. From there we discover the other eleven kids, and get them all out of there. So, Mr. Earl Buchanan is currently rotting in prison, where he belongs, and likely that’s where he will take his last breath in captivity.

Mark: Should we put something together that’s like.. on the site, I would love to have some place to post the bad guys.

Tim: Absolutely! The Queen of Sweden had that idea.

Mark: Queen of Sweden is not a bad guy.

Tim: No, no, no. The Queen of Sweden is a good lady.

Mark: Ok.

Tim: She had the idea “How do I get pedophiles out of my country?”, “How do I stop child sex from happening?” So, what she did was, any pedophile that was convicted got their face plastered on billboards all over the country. You know what happened? Pedophiles stopped raping kids in Sweden. Because who wants that, right?

Mark: Yeah.

Tim: Absolutely, and that’s part of what Slave Stealer podcast is all about, is shining a light on the darkness, and the darkness are these people, shine a light in their face, show the world what’s up, who these guys are. We have to create a deterrent, and you don’t create a deterrent without knowledge. Knowledge is the deterrent, because we can’t singlehandedly plaque out the millions of children who are being forced into commercial sex trade. We can’t, no one group, no one government can really do that, but what we can do is create a deterrent by showing the world that there is a consequence for doing this, and you’d better get on one side or the other, and if you are on the wrong side you are going to lose, but you don’t know when you are going to lose.

Mark: We might be watching you.

Tim: So, don’t play the game. And then kids are safe. That’s the idea.

Mark: Take me back to Julio.

Tim: So, the little boy… a couple of crazy things happened to me personally, I talk about my personal journey into this. This case almost broke me, like it almost ended my career. I thought it was over, because it was so hard. It was so hard holding this little boy, and meeting the other kids. I had this experience, I was driving back, I was testifying in a hearing for the case. At this point, the little boy was being taken care of in a foster care kind of home, that the Imperial county ran. So, I’m driving back from San Diego through Imperial county, and there are two off-ramps in this town: one leads to the county shelter with this little boy is being taken care of, and the next one leads to my home. I thought to myself if I take, if I skip this – you know you play mind games with yourself, I was crying, I’m driving, I’m crying, I’m just like “I can’t deal with this.” If I take the first off-ramp, that means I’m going to stay in this job, I’m going to finish this case, and I’m going to stay in this. If I skip it, in my mind I’m going home and I’m leaving this job. As I’m driving, I’m listening to a singer, who is my favorite singer, who, I didn’t know him at all at the time, Peter Breinholt. Right as I was approaching the first off-ramp that would lead me to a life of chasing down pedophiles and sex traffickers, and everything else, this song comes on, that, before this moment didn’t have much meaning to me, it wasn’t necessarily my favorite song that Peter Breinholt sang. It is called ‘Lullaby’. It tells the story of a parent figure who is talking to a child, who is having some kind of a nightmare of something bad happening to them. The parent comes into the room, he soothes the child, and then what the parent keeps saying is “They won’t come around here no more, they won’t come around here no more…”,meaning these monsters, the nightmares. I thought “you know what, because of what we did, and, again, I didn’t do anything spectacular on this case, but because of our efforts, the monsters won’t come anymore to this little boy.” Whatever he took, or whatever pain he was forced to deal with, just outweighs by a million tons the pain that I have to go through to kind of be a witness to it, so I can go on and help. It wasn’t even a hard decision, I took that turn and I went to that little boy. When I got to him, he loved me, you know we were buddies, we had taken him to lunch and helped him out. He is doing well now. We have actually found family for him somewhere, I can’t say where, a distant family who took him in.

Mark: He’s a late teenager now?

Tim: Oh, yeah, yeah, he is in his teens.

Mark: Wow.

Tim: I made the decision, it was almost to me, almost like a message from God. He gave me the necklace. I don’t know what he was thinking, I know what I was thinking. That necklace that his sister had given him, that was their prayer, their rosary, their payer that they would be rescued, and now he gives it to me. So many things going through my mind, like, “What?! Do I need to be rescued now?” Probably, I did, in some ways. It was almost like, “Ok, go save the other kids, take the power of this necklace and go save the other kids.” After that, I take the necklace home and I show it to my family, and I’m too dense to recognize this, but one of my children took it and said, “Dad, that’s cool! The little kid put your name on it for you.” My kids were, frankly, the same age with this little boy, little kids. “That’s cool, you know? He put your name on the necklace.” I am like, “He didn’t put my name on the necklace, he didn’t. What are you talking about?” And, they were like, “Your name is on the necklace”. Sure enough, the scripture reference was a reference from the book of Timothy in the Bible. So here’s my name on this necklace. To me, again, call it luck, chance, coincidence, God, whatever you want to call it, it was a message to me. That necklace symbolized a calling now to me. It meant so much to me, and I decided, then and there, that this is it, this is what I’m called to do, this is what I’ll do for the rest of my life.

Part 1 of 2.


Interview w/ Tim Ballard

Mark Mabry

December 16, 2015