Nestled in Ancestor Square, historic jailhouse to transform into ‘symbol of freedom’ from human trafficking

ST. GEORGE — In a dream James Rose had, he was in the middle of assembling a small, fold-up wooden jail that was delivered to him when his 7-year-old daughter came up and asked him what he was doing. “There’s bad people out there who are hurting people, and we need to get them and put them in jail,” he replied.

This was the dream Rose, the CEO and founder of Rose Development in St. George, had the night after watching a nearly 40-minute video on Facebook of well-known philanthropist Tony Robbins interviewing Tim Ballard, CEO and founder of Operation Underground Railroad – an organization dedicated to eradicating human trafficking, specifically sex trafficking against children.

Ballard, a former special agent for the Department of Homeland Security and Salt Lake City resident, is also known for his book “Slave Stealers.”

Rose knew then that he had to do something to join the fight in ending human trafficking.

From left, the historic sheriff’s office and jailhouse will be transformed into an information and donation center to raise awareness of human trafficking in St. George, Utah, Nov. 14, 2018 | Photo by Markee Heckenliable, St. George News

After telling his wife about the dream the next day, she told Rose the jail was a representation of a jail that was already in his possession – the historic jailhouse in Ancestor Square, which he wouldn’t let anyone rent because he wanted to save it for a good cause.

Now, he has plans to turn the jailhouse, as well as the old sheriff’s house next to it, into an information and donation center to bring awareness to human trafficking.

However, to maintain the right creative direction, Rose knew he would have to reach out to Operation Underground Railroad. Luckily, he said, that chance was right in front of him less than a month ago.

Rose and his wife were on a trip in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, to attend a Tony Robbins conference in October.

“My wife is sitting at one of these tables,” Rose told St. George News, “and I’m doing something else in the same room but on the other side. I get this text saying ‘James, Tim Ballard just sat at our table,’ and I was like, ‘Of course he did.'”

After telling Ballard about his dream and what he was trying to accomplish, the two became friends and started working on the project together. With more than a decade of experience of rescuing children from traffickers, Ballard has been able to provide a firsthand account of what human trafficking looks like.

Since its creation in 2013, Operation Underground Railroad has rescued more than 1,500 victims and assisted in the arrests of more than 700 traffickers around the world, including in the U.S. where the team rescued 17 people in the state of Washington, according to its website.

While the majority of operations listed on the website are from other countries, human trafficking is happening every day in the U.S., including Utah. As recently as Nov. 14, the Utah Attorney General’s Office reported that it arrested James Savage Brown for felony charges, including human trafficking against two women.

And it’s not just women and children being trafficked. In Connecticut, police identified 15 victims of a sex trafficking ring that preyed on young men and teenage boys for more than 20 years, according to a Nov. 15 Associated Press report, and law enforcement believes there could be dozens more victims.

From left, Tim Ballard, CEO and founder of Operation Underground Railroad, and James Rose, CEO and founder of Rose Dvlpmnt, share their ideas and inspirations behind their project inside the historic sheriff’s office in Ancestor Square in St. George, Utah, Nov. 14, 2018 | Image still from St. George News

How often human trafficking happens, like in the cases of Utah and Connecticut, is an aspect both Rose and Ballard want to show in the jailhouse. The reason Rose chose the jailhouse for this project is because it’s small, dark and similar to places where human traffickers keep the people they sell.

Their vision for the jailhouse is to create a place where the public can see what human trafficking looks like, while the sheriff’s office will be a more hopeful place and contain different items like videos, T-shirts and books for people to buy.

Rose said there will also be information in the sheriff’s office on how to donate and possibly a computer, where people can take a course to learn about human trafficking and become aware of the signs.

“I hope that they can use it as a symbol of freedom,” he said, referring to the project.

Rose and Ballard invited the Southern Utah community to listen to their vision and offer input about the project on Wednesday. While standing in the small, cramped jailhouse, Ballard shared his story of why he created Operation Underground Railroad.

After being transferred to the Salt Lake City office for his job as a special agent, Ballard learned the story of a little boy named Gardy, who was kidnapped from his LDS church in Haiti and put into a trafficking situation in 2010. Ballard said he tried to make Gardy’s case a U.S. case, but because it was a Haitian crime committed by Haitians, he had no jurisdiction.

Ballard felt stuck and didn’t know what to do because he had already promised Gardy’s dad that he would do everything he could to find his son.

“I had this idea,” Ballard shared with the people huddled in the jailhouse, “because there had been so many other cases that I had worked around the world that I had intelligence on, and actionable intelligence, but simply it was outside the jurisdiction, outside the mandate of what I could legally do, of what the U.S. government could legally do.”

So he quit his job and created Operation Underground Railroad, where there are no jurisdiction limitations.

“We never found the little boy, but we did find the traffickers who took him, got them locked up and liberated 28 children from this trafficking organization that was selling children.”

Ballard and his wife adopted two of those rescued children. Ballard said he’s not done looking for Gardy.

After sharing his story, community members and people who wanted to help with the project offered their input on what the jailhouse should look and feel like, including St. George resident Amie Ellis. Her daughter Sarah Dunsey was abducted in January 2017 and found nearly a month later.

St. George resident Amie Ellis, whose daughter was abducted and found in 2017, shares her thoughts on the jailhouse project, Nov. 14, 2018 | Image still from St. George News

“If it’s to portray a feeling, an emotion,” Ellis said, referring to the jailhouse she was standing in,” that’s where I could be helpful because it really isn’t just a door open or like dark. It’s a dirty area with a bed that’s messed up. It’s drugs everywhere.”

She also suggested the jailhouse incorporate an aspect of human trafficking that people often don’t think about – online trafficking. According to Polaris Project data ranging from January 2015 to December 2017, 845 victims were recruited online, with the majority being on internet platforms such as Craigslist and chat rooms.

Ellis said she feels her family is one of the lucky ones because her daughter was found. Just 1 percent of victims are ever rescued.

Since there are no plans to make major changes to the jailhouse, Rose said this project should be done rather quickly. The most time-consuming aspect will be creating the programming for possible movie screens in the jailhouse and making sure the setting creates the right feeling.

He said they believe the project can be completed by Jan. 1, 2019.

For Ballard, he said the project will address one of the largest problems surrounding human trafficking – people don’t know.

“They might have heard of it, but they don’t want to address it because why would you want to? I know how that feels. You don’t want to see it and you don’t want to know it.”

The project is the first of its kind, he said, and they hope to replicate it, adding that it’s the true stories about human trafficking that “move hearts, that move people, that create masses.”

To learn more about the partnership between Operation Underground Railroad and Rose Development, click here.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews | @markeekaenews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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  • Comment November 17, 2018 at 1:40 pm

    Pretty sure it turned out Amie Ellis’s daughter wasn’t actually trafficked, so I’m not sure why she’s still trying to play that angle.

    With places like Haiti, where trafficking is rampant, how do you help people who either refuse or are incapable of helping themselves?

    Wouldn’t it be better to use the old jailhouse for something relating to informing people about the sex slavery of little girls in polygamous cults right here in UT? Seems an old LDS jailhouse should be used for something relating to mormonism, rather than a catch all for all human trafficking? I mean, these things are essentially going on “right in our own backyard”.

  • Comment November 17, 2018 at 1:51 pm

    Not a fan of huffpost, but this is ontopic, and mostly confirms what I suspected about this organization.

    • jaltair November 18, 2018 at 3:13 am

      My husband and I had some misgivings about the OUR (“Underground Railroad”) after watching a documentary on the org. The children appeared to be around 15 or 16 and they didn’t appear scared. It’s also not uncommon in that particular culture to be in prostitution at very early ages, that’s sad, but a fact. We watched, expecting to see the tragedy of little children. NOW, after reading the article in the Huffington Post, I learn, ” All this is filmed so the person who funded the recue (sp) can watch, in real time and from the comfort of his or her office or home, where their money is going. (Sometimes supporters can even participate).”

      This operation appears self-grandizing and almost immoral. So, we are losing the old jail to perpetuate the founder’s need for self-grandizing?

      Contrary to what is written here, everyone knows about child sex-trafficing, no education required. When I’m in Ancestor’s Square enjoying dinner as well as the milieu of my surroundings, I will miss the old jail and the current state of pleasant surroundings.

  • Comment November 17, 2018 at 2:04 pm

    As far as Amie Ellis

    “Her mother told us that she was taken by sex traffickers,” said Officer Michael Rodriguez, a member of the Las Vegas Police Department. “We found that not to be true.”

    • tazzman November 17, 2018 at 3:14 pm

      You sure are spamming this thread. What’s YOUR angle Comment?

      And sorry, but a co-author of HuffPo from EQUITY International, a social justice organization, holds zero credibility.

      And contrary to the HuffPo articles assertions, OUR does do slave trafficking work here in the U.S. and your links prove it.

      The questions should be asked: who are the people defending the status quo and why?

      • Comment November 17, 2018 at 5:10 pm

        My “angle” is that the whole thing seems a little bit scammy.

        I know full well why the status quo is defended here in UT, and it has to do with a certain religion and certain prophets of this religion’s sister cults. Why did it take Texas to finally prosecute Prophet Warren Jeffs when he’s been raping little girls in this very county for years and years? They knew full well. Why didn’t this state do anything about it? Our own dear senator Hatch has visited shortcreek multiple timea, and this was before prophet Jeffs was put away for life. And it was hardly a big secret that many people knew that this prophet liked to rape little girls. The hypocrisy is bad enough right here at home. I’ll believe this whole ‘OUR’ organization is primarily a money making scheme until I see proof otherwise. And some hot shot land developer dressed like a Columbian drug lord? And Amie Ellis’s daughter was never abducted or held against her will. So who really has the angle here? It isn’t me.

        • tazzman November 18, 2018 at 2:42 pm

          Oh so Amie Ellis’ case, ONE case, makes an entire organizations success at putting away over 300+ traffickers and freeing women and children somehow scammy? Okay, you go ahead and stew in your cynicism. Others will push forward trying to solve it.

          • Comment November 18, 2018 at 3:37 pm

            The question is why are they using Ellis’s story for publicity related to trafficking when her story was proven to be nothing but her imagination? Her daughter was simply not trafficked in any way. I don’t understand that angle. It seems a bit bizarre actually. If anything the woman should be embarrassed about the stories she made up.

            It seems questionable whether “OUR” HAS actually saved anyone or put any criminals away.

            People should be fully informed about an org they donate to. This one just does not seem credible.

            LOL, I will “stew in my cynicism” TY. I’ll also put a donation somewhere else rather than wonder if my money is saving Haitian child sex slaves OR helping buy Tim Ballard a new jet boat. lol, cheers 😉

          • bikeandfish November 18, 2018 at 5:44 pm

            To be fair Comment, the article states Ellis was there in the audience. They did not say she was officially associated with the program in this article. Is that stated in a different place?

          • Comment November 18, 2018 at 6:40 pm

            bike, i never thought she was associated with ‘OUR’ itself, but in the video she claims to be some kind of advocate or something. She still claims her daughter was trafficked even after it was proven that her daughter was simply a runaway that had become involved with some 20-something year old men. But there was never evidence the girl was trafficked. If I recall correctly the 17 year old had been having sex with a man several years older who was charged with a statutory crime, but that is in no way trafficking. Not sure if there were ever any convictions related to that case. They’re using Ellis as a spokesperson for ‘this cause’ regardless if she works with ‘OUR’. I simply don’t understand why. I don’t understand the woman’s motivations unless she found a way to bank off her fictional account of what went on with her girl.

          • Comment November 18, 2018 at 6:43 pm

            Maybe there was a lot more to that story that never was released, but from all I find the official account was that Ellis’s daughter was a runaway that was having consensual relations with some adult man…

          • Comment November 18, 2018 at 7:05 pm

            Oh, and it seems like I heard from somewhere that the girl (sarah) didn’t actually want to come home, and the police weren’t making it a priority because the investigation revealed that it was just a runaway case. But the mom (Ellis) had gone to some fairly large media outlets claiming that sarah had been sex trafficked. And with all this media on this case I think the police in California eventually went and located sarah, and the man she was with was charged with the statutory crimes. It’s a case about a wild, out of control teen running away and not trafficking or exploitation. It’s just so bizarre the woman is still sticking to this “trafficking” story after all this time.

            The first time I heard of this story way back in Feb, 2017


            I hope I’m not the one that put the idea in her head in the first place of the sex trafficking stuff, because she took that idea and ran full speed ahead with it until the girl was dragged back from Cali. Too weird.

        • tazzman November 18, 2018 at 2:45 pm

          As for Warren Jeff’s case, where is Jeffs’ now? He is rightly rotting in a jail cell. Colorado Cith and Hilldale weren’t exactly the most transparent and open communities cooperating with law enforcement. Law enforcement has to build a case. It took them a long time but they did. That’s why his compound was raided years ago.

          So again, having an axe to grind against the Mormon church doesn’t make your argument about the FLDS church any more apt.

          • Comment November 18, 2018 at 3:40 pm

            Texas managed to get it done. Why couldn’t Utah? They certainly had plenty of opportunity.

          • tazzman November 18, 2018 at 5:39 pm

            Hey, I am not going to declare UT innocent in this regard. Too many in this state turned a blind eye. Actually, both UT and AZ did. As for why Texas managed to get it done and UT didn’t….that’s because you don’t mess with Texas.

      • bikeandfish November 17, 2018 at 5:56 pm

        How does the connection to Equity International undermine the criticisms in the HuffPo article? I mean what is more “social justice” oriented than an organization like OUR that actively deals with the modern day slave trade? Not to mention EI is an organization that interfaces directly with police agencies for training, its not like they are activists on the street. I mean what is so bad about addressing civil liberties as it pertains to police enforcement?

        All around unusual response. I don’t have any skin in this game but I did learn alot by following comment’s posts which caused me to fact check and research the issue more. I can’t say the same about your post.

        • tazzman November 18, 2018 at 2:39 pm

          The article insinuates that OUR does not cooperate with local law enforcement, which is factually wrong. OUR isn’t a rogue outfit going into countries without the cooperation and even at the request of local and national law enforcement. So yeah, the article is wrong in that EI simply is out of the loop but OUR is not. They do work with local police. They wouldn’t be as successful as they are if they didn’t.
          As for Comments opening post why they don’t focus more on domestic slave trafficking, first, they do, and second, the other countries problems are more acute. They lack the legal infrastructure to prosecute and corruption is rampant.
          Frankly, attacking OUR because they focus on foreign sources of slave trafficking is bizarre. That is the primary sources of trafficking and illicit trade because they lack the resources to prosecute.

          • Comment November 18, 2018 at 3:42 pm

            Are you some kind of spokesman for them or what?

          • tazzman November 18, 2018 at 5:40 pm

            No, just connected to the cause. Not OUR specifically, but slave trafficking in general.

          • bikeandfish November 18, 2018 at 5:40 pm

            Can you show evidence to support your claim that they collaborate with law enforcement?

            I see you shied away from your original line of attack, ie “social justice warriors”. I’m still skeptical of both lines of reasoning you and comments make. I just generally find the approach this group takes (limelight, level of spectacle) to be a red flag myself. And the allegations about filming extractions for donors seems highly unethical.

          • bikeandfish November 18, 2018 at 5:54 pm

            So, I went back and re-read the Huffpost article and it seems to me you are grossly misrepresenting their argument. I don’t see them building a case that OUR doesn’t “does not cooperate with local law enforcement” as they make direct reference to such involvement in foreign countries. Their principle argument seems to be that the strategy and techniques OUR employs are highly questionable and inconsistent of the conplexities of dismantling the mechanisms if sex trafficking. For example, thet seem to focus on helping local law enforcement (which the article insinuates is often conplicit actors in such rings) arrest low level players instead of methodically dismantling the important high level actors and systems that keep their business running.

            You’ve raised more red flags for me regarding OUR instead of helping their cause.

          • Comment November 18, 2018 at 6:49 pm

            Yep, so essentially they put on “a show” that works good for getting them donations, but is quite impotent at actually making any real difference. I’d be curious to know how wealthy the founder has become off this organization. I’d love to be surprised and find out they’re doing wonderful things, but…

  • Comment November 17, 2018 at 5:25 pm

    And I noticed Paul Ford is in this video. He used to work for stgnews, but does he still? What is his connection to all this? Knowing of his intimate connections to the infamous conman Jeremy Johnson just makes anything he’s involved with look sketchy. I know a lot of these scammer types seem to run in packs. There are just a lot of questions, and it naturally just looks very shady…

  • htown November 18, 2018 at 9:00 pm

    James Fales must have changed his name to James Rose when he got out of prison. Hard to imagine there is not some money making opportunity for him and Lyndi again.

  • Comment November 19, 2018 at 12:02 am

    Here’s an old article talking about the wife of Fales’ former business partner Kimoto. This stuff is hilarious just how deep the rabbit hole goes

    And throw in Paul Ford’s close connections to the fraudster Jeremy Johnson, smh. These people have a clear track record of fraud. They’re like an LDS fraud racket. Crazy! ahahaha

  • bikeandfish November 19, 2018 at 9:57 am


    You stated “The question is why are they using Ellis’s story for publicity “. Thats a misrepresentation of the situation. Its the article that brought her up as she was in the audience for the event. She inserted herself into the situation by participating. They aren’t responsible for the news report and don’t seem to be using her for publicity from the information provided in this article.

    • Comment November 19, 2018 at 12:43 pm

      bike, did you watch the video? She seems to be taking a far more active role in promoting this stuff than just some passive audience member. She’s still peddling her false narrative as well. I don’t understand her motivation. She should be advocating for some org for runaway teens if anything, since her kid’s story never had any connection to trafficking. Anyway, Ellis is a side issue as far as i can tell. This story has solid connections to at least two notorious conmen now. It looks to me like this whole crew are a bunch of opportunist fraudsters. I’m open to be proven wrong, but it sure doesn’t look like i am.

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