Cartagena, Colombia is known for more than its beautiful scenery. In fact, it is home to an alleged sex trafficker named Marcus Bronschidle who specializes in trafficking young girls. Bronschidle, who was secretly being taped, was sitting with some other men bartering over the price of sex with several young girls. However, what Bronschidle didn't know at the time was that the guys he was talking to didn't actually want to buy young girls for sex. Instead, the whole exchange was secretly recorded as part of a child sex trafficking sting operation.
ABC News reports that the sting was led by an anti-trafficking nonprofit organization called Operation Underground Railroad. The mission was being led by the organization's founder himself, Tim Ballard, who is not a newbie when it comes to investigating sex trafficking. In fact, Ballard is a former CIA agent and Homeland Security investigator. Ballard said that he worked as a special agent on sex trafficking cases for over 12 years but sadly wasn't able to help as many children as he would have liked. Therefore, he started his own organization that wouldn't be limited by country borders.
"I spent 12 years as a special agent, undercover operative for the United States government, doing this, and learned how to do it. The problem was that the vast majority of the kids that we would identify, we couldn't save. They weren't U.S. cases."When Ballard began setting up the sting, he needed a number of volunteers to pull the operation off. Ballard was able to pull together what he called a "ragtag team" to get the job done. The team included off-the-books operatives, one former Navy SEAL, two CrossFit instructors from Utah, a door-to-door salesman, and even Hollywood actress Laurie Holden, who starred in The Walking Dead. However, most of the volunteers were just regular citizens that wanted to help.
The group had a bachelor party cover. Ballard told Bronschidle that he was the best man for an upcoming wedding and wanted to throw a massive bachelor party in Cartagena, featuring several underage girls that men at the party could have sex with. The sting operation was working in conjunction with the Colombian police but, in order for Colombian officials to prosecute the sex traffickers, they have to catch them exchanging money for the girls on tape. This is where the filmmakers and volunteers helped out tremendously.
The elaborate scene was set for the fake bachelor party. Hidden cameras were placed all across the property of the sting and police were standing by. First a price had to be set for the girls. Ballard reiterated that he wanted young girls and confirmed that "it's going to be about $200 to $300 for the evening, for a child." After the price was agreed upon, Ballard setup the drop off point. Volunteers were there as the party-goers and Walking Dead actress Laurie Holden entertaining the young girls they hoped to rescue by the pool until an exchange of money could be caught on tape and police put into action.
Fortunately the sting went as planned and Mic notes that 55 victims were rescued during this one sting, including one girl who was only 11. All the young girls are now in the care of Columbia's child protective services and 12 people involved in the trafficking of the girls were arrested. Those convicted face five to twenty years in prison if convicted.