EDITOR’S NOTE: A lawsuit only represents one side of the story.
SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — A former United States Marine from Virginia filed a lawsuit against Operation Underground Railroad and Tim Ballard, OUR’s founder and former CEO, furthering claims of sexual assault while conducting operations to rescue victims of human trafficking.
The lawsuit claims Tim Ballard and another operative, Matthew Cooper, sexually harassed the former marine, Jordana Bree Righter under the guise of the “The Couple’s Ruse” while on an operation in the British Virgin Islands.
According to Righter, she met with Ballard in Utah due to her background as a marine and as a licensed clinical social worker. When she arrived, Ballard reportedly asked her, “What are you willing to do to save children?”
Ballard reportedly explained the “The Couple’s Ruse” to Righter, during their meeting. The ruse has been explained as a tactic used to prevent raising suspicions when Ballard would not engage in touching or “partaking” with trafficked victims. Under the tactic, operators pose as a couple, providing an excuse to not engage in inappropriate behavior with victims because “their significant other wouldn’t want them to.”
Ballard allegedly told Righter that Cooper would be her partner while on a mission in the British Virgin Islands.
“Before going to the British Virgin Islands, [Righter] was required to go to a strip club in Salt Lake City so that she could prove herself to Tim Ballard and Matt Cooper, where she was sexually touched under false pretenses,” alleges the lawsuit.
Once in the British Virgin Islands, Ballard allegedly pushed Cooper into being more “sexually aggressive” in the Couple’s Ruse with Righter, which she claims led to her being sexually touched by Cooper under false pretenses while at a resort and while going to strip clubs and massage parlors.
Righter said in her lawsuit that she hoped she would learn about the “exotic technology” that OUR used to identify and follow traffickers as well as its policies and procedures. She said as time passed, however, she realized that there was no training or exotic technology. When the mission ended and Righter returned home, she informed OUR that she would never participate with Ballard again due to his “abhorrent behaviors,” according to the lawsuit.
Righter allegedly discussed Ballard’s behavior with OUR’s current president, Matt Osborne, who reportedly acknowledged the claims as true saying that OUR’s role was to “prevent Ballard from doing too much damage to himself or others.”
OUR reportedly offered Righter another opportunity in Thailand, complete with a 4-day training in Salt Lake City. During the training, which Righter claims was another ruse being filmed in order to entice donors, Righter was reportedly injured with a “catastrophic orbital blowout fracture.” The fracture required surgery, however, the extent of the injury reportedly left irreparable damage.
Righter claims in her lawsuit that she now suffers from PTSD due to the injury and after learning that Ballard was a “liar and fraud.”
“It became very evident to [Righter] that OUR only focused on allowing its celebrity founder, defendant Tim Ballard, to live the lavish lifestyle of a wealthy sex tourist and sexually manipulate and abuse employees, contractors, and volunteers under the guise of saving children by implementing the Couple’s Ruse,” reads the lawsuit.
ABC4.com reached out to OUR for comment. Their statement is below:
“The allegation that O.U.R. is the alter ego of Tim Ballard is false. Since its inception, O.U.R. has carefully upheld its obligations as an independent 501(c)(3) with appropriate governance and accountability structures, which are now under review by present management. We will defend the organization against the plaintiff’s misguided attempts to create confusion by painting a false narrative about O.U.R. The current leadership of O.U.R. has increased its commitment to provide a safe, respectful and harassment-free environment, and we are deeply sorry for any harm or distress that Tim Ballard’s actions may have caused to anyone associated with O.U.R.”
“While Tim Ballard was the public face of the organization during his tenure as CEO, he directly participated in less than 1% of OUR’s operations between January 2020 and his departure in June 2023, and his operations were not representative of the vast majority of OUR’s work. OUR is currently conducting, on average, five commissions per week, which include a combination of boots on the ground, intelligence gathering, and contributing resources to law enforcement worldwide.”OUR Spokesperson, via email, 11.21.2023
Through the lawsuit, Righter is seeking damages in an undisclosed amount to be determined in trial.
This is the third lawsuit filed against Tim Ballard and Operation Underground Railroad over claims of sexual harassment stemming from the Couple’s Ruse. The first two were filed in October after a group of women and a married couple stepped forward with their claims.
The full lawsuit filed by Righter can be seen in full in the document below: