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Women file lawsuit against Tim Ballard, O.U.R. claiming sexual assault, battery

Posted at 5:03 PM, Oct 09, 2023

SALT LAKE COUNTY — Five women have filed a lawsuit against Tim Ballard, the Operation Underground Railroad organization and its executives, claiming sexual assault, battery and fraud.

The lawsuit filed Monday in the Third Judicial District Court by the five Utah residents comes a week after their attorney said the women, who were former employees and contractors of OUR, were spiritually manipulated and sexually harassed by Ballard.

Along with Ballard and the nonprofit organization, the lawsuit names members of Operation Underground Railroad's board and other corporations affiliated with OUR.

In the lawsuit, the women say Ballard would use the "Couples Ruse" as a tool to prevent detection by pedophiles during an operation. During the ruse, Ballard claimed he would not sexually touch the trafficked women offered to him at strip clubs and massage parlors.

The women in the lawsuit say Ballard would choose women devoted to OUR, but "with no formal training in paramilitary activities or operations," and that he began to abuse the "Couples Ruse" rules that said there was to be no kissing on the lips or touching private parts.

Ballard allegedly told the women that he had been given permission to run the "Couples Ruse" by M. Russell Ballard, the acting president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Quorum of Twelve Apostles.

According to the lawsuit, Ballard began using "Couples Ruse" as a tool for sexual grooming, asking women to practice before the mission took place and practice their sexual chemistry through "tantric yoga, couples massages with escorts, and lap dancing on Ballard’s lap."

While on practice runs at strip clubs, the lawsuit says Ballard participated in several sexual acts and consumed "excessive amounts of alcohol."

Some of these practice runs took place at strip clubs in the Salt Lake area, according to the lawsuit.

"At the strip clubs, Ballard would pay for and receive lap dances, and ingest alcohol and pills at these practice [ruses] on OUR’s dime with donor monies," the suit reads.

The lawsuit also claims that Ballard would tell the women that if they were offered alcohol — which is forbidden by the LDS church — during O.U.R. missions, they should take the drink but then "open mouth, kiss him and spit the alcohol into his mouth, and then he would spit it out when the traffickers were not looking."

The women accuse Ballard of eventually coercing them into sexual acts under the guise of the "couples ruse." He also allegedly told them they needed to keep the ruse going, even when there didn't appear to be any reason to portray the image — such as times when they were in private accommodations. They say he claimed traffickers could always be watching.

The suit also says Ballard would badmouth previous female participants for being "crazy" and falling in love with him.

"When these women found themselves questioning the legitimacy of tactics involving sexual contact, they often doubted their own instincts, relying on Ballard's breadth of knowledge about rescue missions to convince themselves that such tactics were normal," the lawsuit states. "Other employees of OUR would warn these women not to question Ballard or their lives would be put in danger."

Ballard would insist that the women stay silent about their alleged sexual encounters with him because if they told anyone, it would put everyone’s lives at risk on the undercover mission, it was necessary to save the trafficked children, and because he was blessed by President Ballard to be a future President of the United States and then the prophet of the LDS church.

The plaintiffs say O.U.R. and its board learned of Ballard’s behavior, but stayed silent in order to make money earlier this year from the film “The Sound of Freedom,” which dramatizes Ballard and the rescue missions.

Operation Underground Railroad released a statement late Monday denying claims made in the lawsuit.

"O.U.R. reached out multiple times to [attorney] Ms. Rasmussen to engage with her and hear her client’s concerns, but she seemed intent on litigating her client’s issues in a public forum. Now that O.U.R. has reviewed the Complaint, it categorically denies the allegations as they relate to O.U.R. Moreover, Ms. Rasmussen’s characterizations of the Board’s intentions and actions are entirely misguided and speculative. O.U.R. looks forward to the litigation process and is confident that the truth will prevail.

"O.U.R. has taken strong measures to ensure objectivity in every step of this process and it remains committed to doing so in order for the focus to return to the children as soon as possible."

In a statement of its own, the Utah Attorney General's office spoke about the allegations made in the lawsuit. Attorney General Sean Reyes has been a longtime supporter of Ballard's, although he has distanced himself over the last few weeks.

"The Attorney General’s Office did not receive any Criminal complaints or requests for investigation regarding OUR or Tim Ballard as alleged in the Complaint," the statement said.

The lawsuit claims that Ballard used OUR "to fund his personal fantasies of grandeur," and that while an IRS form shows Ballard received a salary of over $500,000, employees say he earned over $14,000,000 through his for-profit companies.

It also alleges that many donors "held bake sales and literally donated their "widow’s mite" to OUR and Tim Ballard."

On Wednesday, the same attorneys filed a second lawsuit from a husband and wife that contained many of the same allegations as the original lawsuit.

Last month, the Church called Ballard's activity "morally unacceptable," claiming he had used Ballard's name for his own personal and financial interests.

"Once it became clear Tim Ballard had betrayed their friendship, through the unauthorized use of President Ballard’s name for Tim Ballard’s personal advantage and activity regarded as morally unacceptable, President Ballard withdrew his association," the Church said in a statement. "President Ballard never authorized his name, or the name of the Church, to be used for Tim’s personal or financial interests. In addition, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints never endorsed, funded, supported or represented OUR, Tim Ballard or any projects associated with them."