Police in Utah are looking into a woman’s claim that the founder of an anti-child-trafficking organization made famous by a movie last summer sexually assaulted her, the first known criminal investigation amid assault claims made against him by six women in two lawsuits.
Detectives arranged a meeting the next day, according to the report, which did not detail anything further about the investigation.
“All I can say is that there was an interview. The case is ongoing. It’s an active investigation,” Lindon police Chief Mike Brower confirmed with the newspaper Wednesday.
Ballard, founder of Operation Underground Railroad, already faces a lawsuit filed by five women who say he sexually manipulated, abused and harassed them on overseas trips designed to lure and catch child sex traffickers.
It wasn’t clear whether the woman who contacted police is one of the five from that lawsuit, a woman who alleges in a separate lawsuit filed with her husband that Ballard sexually assaulted her, or someone else.
The Salt Lake Tribune did not identify the woman, citing its policy not to identify sexual assault victims without their permission. It was not clear what may have happened in Lindon to involve police in the town of about 10,000. Lindon is 30 miles south of Salt Lake City.
The police report listed Suzette Rasmussen, an attorney for the seven plaintiffs in the two lawsuits, as a contact for the woman. Rasmussen confirmed the report’s contents but declined to comment further.
The criminal investigation comes as Utah’s legislative auditor, at the request of state lawmakers, begins to look into Attorney General Sean Reyes’ office including whether Reyes’ long friendship with Ballard led to any state help for Operation Underground Railroad or “Sound of Freedom,” a film based on the organization’s activities that was a hit with conservative moviegoers last summer.
Ballard has denied the sexual assault allegations and did so again in a statement by Ken Krogue, president of The SPEAR Fund, an anti-trafficking organization where Ballard is now listed as a senior adviser.
Ballard has not been contacted by law enforcement or otherwise informed of the woman’s report to police, according to Krogue.
“The fact that a purported criminal complaint has been leaked to the media is even further evidence of the true intent behind this charade,” Krogue said in the statement. “It is designed to stir up a media frenzy, to harm the reputation of Mr. Ballard, and to impede his and others’ efforts to fight sex trafficking industry.”
Ballard resigned from Operation Underground Railroad amid the sexual assault allegations.
The complaints against Ballard center on a “couple’s ruse” he allegedly engaged in with women associated with Operation Underground Railroad who posed as his wife to fool child sex traffickers into thinking he was a legitimate client, according to the lawsuit filed by the five women in Utah state court.
Ballard’s work against child sex trafficking got him invited to the White House under President Donald Trump. Ballard previously was a special adviser to Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, and was appointed to a White House anti-human-trafficking board in 2019.