The “couples ruse” revisited: New accusations against Tim Ballard

Oct 11, 2023, 2:48 PM | Updated: 3:31 pm

Image of Tim Ballard, founder and former CEO of Operation Underground Railroad, speaking at an O.U....

FILE: Tim Ballard, founder and former CEO of Operation Underground Railroad, speaks at an O.U.R. event. A second lawsuit filed against Ballard claims a couple's marital separation was caused by Ballard. (Provided by Operation Underground Railroad)

(Provided by Operation Underground Railroad)

SALT LAKE CITY — A second lawsuit against Operation Underground Railroad Founder Tim Ballard has now been filed in Utah’s 3rd Judicial District court.

It’s much like the first suit, brought by five anonymous women alleging sexual assault and battery as well as fraud and claims that Ballard used the “couples ruse” tactic to make women his wife or girlfriend on undercover missions. It also names OUR, its board members, and several other defendants, accusing them of failing to act.

Accusations of grooming, threats, and spiritual manipulation

This suit comes from a couple who claims that their separation was caused because the husband “grew angry that his wife was always gone with Ballard and that Ballard’s texts to her were too familiar and unprofessional.”

document – 2023-10-11T092718.936 by Simone Seikaly on Scribd

The lawsuit accuses Ballard of grooming women to take part in the “couples ruse.” The lawsuit says “spiritual manipulation” was used to coerce women into taking part, claiming it did not violate the tenets of their faith so long as it did not involve physical intercourse or kissing on the lips.

It also alleges that Ballard threatened the husband and that he committed sexual assault and battery against the woman. Additionally, the lawsuit alleges that Ballard offered to pay her “double her annual salary plus large bonuses.”

A day after the first lawsuit was filed, Ballard’s company The Spear Fund issued a statement from its attorney, Mark L. Eisenhut.

“The Spear Fund did not exist during the time of the alleged conduct and had nothing to do with it. Mr. Ballard vehemently denies the allegations brought by these unnamed women. He looks forward to vindicating his name in the courts where evidence, and not unsubstantiated accusations in the media, decides the outcome,” an attorney said Wednesday in response to the first lawsuit.

Wednesday, The Spear Fund issued a different statement signed by Tim and Katherine Ballard, apparently referencing the original lawsuit.

“We regret that the five women who have come forward—though still without names and faces—are caught up in this difficult struggle we face together,” the statement reads. “Two of these women went on actual Operation Underground Railroad operations. One went on a single operation, and the other woman repeatedly put herself in harm’s way. Three did not go on any actual operations, as they did not make it through the training and certification process.”

Without directly addressing the allegations, the statement references “unintended consequences” related to the work of fighting human trafficking.

“Who would have thought we would now be fighting amongst ourselves while these evils are rapidly escalating all around us?” it says.

Questions about funding, operations

The new complaint includes statements from both the woman, identified only as A.A., and her separated husband, F.T., detailing their claims.

According to the complaint filed Tuesday, the couple alleges Ballard relied on donations and funding from the people participating in his operations, despite reporting millions of dollars in revenue to the IRS.

“OUR was making staggering profits as Ballard opened ‘for profit’ companies, defendants, which were alter-egos of OUR and Ballard and that allowed Ballard to line his pockets with the widow’s mite,” the complaint alleges.

It goes on to accuse Ballard of using OUR for personal gain.

“Ballard used OUR and its OPS to fund his personal fantasies of grandeur,” the lawsuit says.

The “couples ruse:” Accusations of sexual misconduct

The second lawsuit alleges that Ballard encouraged women working with him on operations to engage in a tactic known as the “couples ruse” in order to deceive potential pedophiles.

“Ballard claims that the COUPLES RUSE was an undercover tool to prevent detection by pedophiles when Ballard would not engage in sexual touching of the trafficked women offered up to him in strip clubs and massage parlors across the world,” the lawsuit alleges.

It alleges that Ballard invited a woman to train to participate in the couples ruse, but “soon began abusing the COUPLES RUSE and eventually used the ruse as a tool for sexual grooming,” according to the complaint.

The complaint also alleges that Ballard encouraged women to travel around the country with him to practice the couples ruse, including participating in tantric yoga, couples’ massages and going to strip clubs.

“Through these COUPLES RUSES, both in the office and in the field, Ballard eventually engaged in coerced sexual contact with several women and propositioned others,” the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit also claims Ballard taught women a specific sexual pose that would allow them to simulate intercourse.

Attorneys claim Ballard required the women taking part in the couples ruse to keep their activities secret. Attorney’s claim Ballard used the Signal app to keep their communications private. The attorneys also said Ballard provided the women with burner phones.

“Ballard also threatened the women that he was tracking them with their burner phones and company phones he provided,” the lawsuit claims.

Allegedly, the women were required to sign non-disclosure agreements, and feared legal action should they talk about their work.

Operation Underground Railroad’s investigation

In the spring of 2023, the lawsuit says several female OUR employees reported the couples ruse operations to the company’s management team.

That investigation, conducted by an outside firm, verified the women’s claims, according to the complaint.

“OUR remained silent, using [Ballard’s] face and the world-wide opening tour of Sound of Freedom to raise money, and allowing Ballard to continue his grooming, drinking and sexual deviancy; all on the donors’ dime,” the complaint reads.

The suit claims A.A. followed Ballard to The Spear Fund after he left Operation Underground Railroad, and was promised a salary she never received.

Departure from Operation Underground Railroad

The lawsuit raises new questions about the nature of Ballard’s departure from Operation Underground Railroad.

“Tim was telling people he resigned from O.U.R. because there would be a conflict with Sound of Freedom, and he wanted to start The SPEAR Fund,” A.A. claims. “I always felt weird about that because I was with him on June 9th when he got his termination letter from O.U.R.’s Board members and O.U.R. He never gave me clear information.”

Attorneys for A.A. and F.T. are asking for damages in general, lost wages for A.A., punitive damages, and an award to cover expenses and attorney’s fees. They did not specify an amount with the request.

Our previous reporting:

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The “couples ruse” revisited: New accusations against Tim Ballard