Five women are suing Tim Ballard, whose experience rescuing children from sex traffickers inspired the film “Freedom,” accusing him of sexual assault and battery.
The lawsuit was filed in Utah’s 3rd Judicial Court on Monday, a month after Ballard resigned from Operation Underground Railroad (OUR), the nonprofit child rescue group he founded.
Ballard is under investigation by an outside firm hired by the OUR for allegedly forcing at least seven women to act like “wives” while on overseas assignments, a charge he denies.
Ballard, a former Department of Homeland Security agent, could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday. Last month, he dismissed the allegations against him as “false.”
In the lawsuit filed Monday, a woman identified only as “WW” said she contacted Ballard on Instagram in April 2021 because she believed the man she was dating might be involved in human trafficking.
Ballard allegedly invited the woman to his office in Lehi, Utah, to discuss her concerns. During the conversation, Ballard allegedly asked the woman if she would be willing to go undercover, to which the woman responded “no,” but said she would consider it. The woman said she was then told to sign a nondisclosure agreement and instructed not to mention anything to anyone, according to the lawsuit.
The woman said Ballard told her he used a tactic on missions known as the “Couple’s Ruse” in which women would accompany him so traffickers would not suspect they were involved in sting operations.
Ballard claimed to have strict rules about “couples ruse,” including no kissing or touching in a sexual manner, but allegedly used it as a way to seduce women, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit describes an instance in which Ballard told WW she felt the person helping her heal from a past sexual assault was untrustworthy. WW believed Ballard because she trusted him, the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit also describes another incident in which Ballard allegedly touched the woman’s leg during a meeting in the office to prepare her for an assignment.
“WW immediately became nervous but believed that Ballard was testing her and that she should continue talking as if nothing had happened,” the lawsuit states. “Ballard stroked WW’s neck and she kept talking.”
Ballard became “frustrated” and asked WW why she wasn’t responding to him, telling her he needed to know she was attracted to him, the lawsuit said.
While on assignment in Mexico, Ballard was accused of molesting WW on multiple occasions. Each time, the lawsuit says, he insisted they “stay true to themselves” and act like a “perverted couple” to make the sting appear believable. The woman also claimed Ballard took her on assignments at different massage parlors, which put her in dangerous situations.
The woman said in the lawsuit that the mission retraumatized her and caused her nightmares when she returned home. She refused to go on any more missions.
WW realized what was happening was not a normal part of the mission after another woman, known as “DM,” told her that Ballard allegedly “pushed her against a wall and licked her stomach,” the lawsuit states.
WW, DM and three other women sued Ballard, alleging sexual assault and battery, fraud, emotional distress and conspiracy. OUR, its board of directors and its affiliates are also named as defendants.
“These are baseless inventions designed to destroy me and the movement we have built to end the trafficking and exploitation of vulnerable children,” Ballard said last month in a letter targeting his new anti-trafficking organization, the Spear Fund. stated in the statement of charges.
Ballard, a married father of nine, went on to say that he enforced strict guidelines while at our school.
“Sexual contact is forbidden and I lead by example,” he said. “Given the close attention we pay to this issue, any suggestion of inappropriate sexual contact is absolutely wrong.”
OUR previously confirmed to NBC News that Ballard resigned on June 22, but did not provide a reason for his departure. The organization did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Lawyers for the women said their clients had reported their concerns to the OUR but were ignored.
“As a result, our investigative team did not reveal Tim Ballard’s true identity as a sexual predator,” the attorneys said in a release.
“Freedom,” a film based on Ballard’s life starring Jim Caviezel, became an unexpected box office hit over the summer. The film attracted a loyal following among conservative and religious groups, who were drawn to Ballard’s heroic portrayal of breaking up a child sex trafficking ring.
Lawyers Suzette Rasmussen and Alan Mortensen said: “There is a tragic irony in these five women: Tim Ballard actually did it for himself Trafficking them for sexual and selfish gratification.”