(WGHP) — A man at the center of a film currently making waves in theaters has apparently left the human trafficking organization that made him famous.
Operation Underground Railroad confirmed to FOX8 Thursday that Tim Ballard was no longer working with the organization. According to VICE News reporters Anna Merlan and Tim Marchman, Ballard had told at least one donor that he had been “forced out.”
OUR said in a statement:
Founder, Tim Ballard has recently stepped away from Operation Underground Railroad prior to launch of the film, “Sound of Freedom”.
We continue to pursue O.U.R.’s core mission. We are excited that many are learning about the organization and its rescue operations and are seeking ways to support it. We believe there remains a tremendous amount of work yet to do and are hopeful that others will continue to support O.U.R.’s efforts to grow our resources and stop child trafficking.
VICE notes that Ballard had not mentioned stepping away from OUR during his press tour promoting the movie with Caviezel. OUR’s website also does not have an announcement or release about his departure, with a press release dated June 8 referring to Ballard as “Operation Underground Railroad’s Tim Ballard.”
“The Sound of Freedom” became an unexpected box office hit after being shelved for five years as a result of the Disney and 21st Century Fox merger. Distributed by Angel Studios, the film portrays a dramatized version of Ballard’s time as an agent working for a division of ICE and the early days of his career as a private human trafficking investigator.
The movie, which had a budget of around $14 million and stars “Passion of the Christ” star Jim Caviezel, has made just under $50 million dollars since its July 4 release. It grossed over $19 million on its opening day, outperforming the newest “Indiana Jones.”
The organization has had a “pay it forward” incentive for tickets, asking people to buy excess tickets so that people can see the film for free.
In 2020, a Utah prosecutor opened a criminal investigation into the group. To date, no charges have been filed against them but FOX13 in Utah states that the prosecutor took to social media and “implied a local nonprofit was conducting illegal fundraising efforts by taking credit for arrests made by the Davis County Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.”
VICE News reported that “a number of OUR’s claims about its work are dramatically overstated or without clear documentary evidence. People who have volunteered for OUR have raised concerns that it could actually have been creating demand for trafficking victims, by going to foreign countries on undercover “missions” that, at times, have seemed to consist of walking around bars and sex clubs asking for underage girls. The organization’s support for law enforcement has at times been wildly exaggerated and involved OUR taking credit for agencies’ operations after making relatively trivial donations, and its much-touted aftercare program for survivors has at times involved things like placing women with unqualified providers and even fabricating a college graduation ceremony.”
In addition to the group’s spurious, difficult-to-prove claims about their methods and impact on human trafficking victims, Caviezel’s connections to the QAnon conspiracy theory have come to the forefront during the press tour. He was recently seen on Steve Bannon’s podcast discussing the harvesting of adrenochrome, a core tenant of QAnon’s esoteric beliefs, where they allege that a cabal of elites is trafficking children to harvest adrenochrome to use in rituals.