Thursday, November 15, 2018

Convicted in child porn case, rogue priest still preaches as he crafts his own narrative

Brandie Kessler and Dylan Segelbaum, York Daily Record

The general's report comes after years of state and local law enforcement uncovering cases of sexual abuse within the Catholic church.

Nate Chute, IndyStar

The Catholic church kicked him out. He is among 301 "predator priests" named by a grand jury. But he still leads a Catholic church in York County.

A York Daily Record/Sunday News investigation shows how he has tried to discredit the conviction.

He tells supporters various stories about why he was convicted of a crime.

Harry Spencer realized that he was home.

He’d grown uncomfortable with the direction of the Catholic Church, particularly since Vatican II. The doctrines had changed. The Mass had changed. So had all the traditions and rituals.

Then, about seven years ago, Spencer started going to what would become St. Michael the Archangel Roman Catholic Church in Lower Windsor Township. It offers a traditional Latin Mass. The Rev. Virgil Tetherow, also known as Father Gabriel, leads the church.

“I have never met a priest that I’ve felt more comfortable with in his religiosity and his ability to teach the religion of the Roman Catholic faith,” Spencer said. “I love my religion. And Father Tetherow is a true Catholic priest.”

But that is not what the Catholic church says.

In fact, Tetherow “is not recognized as a priest, is prohibited from presenting himself as clergy and is not associated with the Diocese of Harrisburg,” said Mike Barley, a spokesman for the diocese, who encouraged the faithful to not attend Tetherow's services.

Tetherow, 54, is among 301 “predator priests” named in the recent landmark grand jury report that details widespread sexual abuse in six Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania. He was arrested in 2005 after police found child pornography on two computers and he later pleaded guilty to criminal use of a communication facility.

In a statement provided to the grand jury, he maintains his conviction isn't what it seems and that the grand jury report distorts the public record. He’s never been accused of physical sexual abuse of children.

Many of the clergy named in the almost 900-page report are dead. But Tetherow, who declined to be interviewed, is still actively running a church — and there’s nothing, and apparently no one, that can prevent him from doing so. A York Daily Record/Sunday News investigation based on dozens of interviews, Right-to-Know Law requests, court records and secret canonical letters reveals how he’s been able to weave a narrative to discredit the conviction and keep loyal followers in his flock.

READ: 'Punished' for being sexually abused in York County: Jehovah's Witnesses' culture of cover-up.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

This real-life hero dove into the child sex slave trade so he could rescue kids from it.

by Annie Reneau

Tim Ballard isn’t a child sex tourist, but he knows exactly how to act like one.

It’s a strange, disturbing expertise to possess, but during his years as a special agent with the Department of Homeland Security, that's what Tim Ballard was trained for. He learned how to infiltrate child trafficking organizations, arrest and prosecute the enslavers, and rescue innocent children from their twisted, wicked grasp. But first he had create a convincing cover posing as a pedophile.

It’s a job we can all agree is vital and heroic. But it’s also one very few of us would sign up for.

In fact, Ballard himself refused it initially. He was working for DHS at the border in the mid-2000s when a superior asked if he’d help launch a Child Crimes Unit. Ballard had six children and didn’t think he could stomach seeing kids being used and abused in heinous ways. His wife Katherine agreed, worrying about what darkness might creep into their lives.

But the next morning Katherine came to Ballard in tears. “We’re making the wrong decision," she said. "The reason we think we shouldn’t do this is actually the reason we should.”

So Ballard, a man of faith, a doting husband, and a dedicated father of six, agreed to descend into the horrific—and mind-blowingly huge—child sex industry to rescue as many children from it as he could.

Whatever you imagine Ballard has seen, the reality is probably far, far worse.

Diving into the darkest side of humanity isn’t easy. “We started working these cases,” Ballard says, “and they were 1000 times worse than my mind could have conjured up . . . people call it child pornography, but I can’t call it that. It’s child rape videos, and it’s just devastating.”

He wasn’t the only agent who struggled to wrap his mind and heart around this kind of work.

In the beginning, Ballard says, there was little in the way of training materials for infiltrating child sex trafficking operations. In his book, “Slave Stealers: True Account of Slave Rescues Then and Now,” he recounted a story of one of his first undercover simulation exercises:

“I was sitting across the table from one of my undercover instructors, who was playing the role of a criminal smuggler, and I began to engage him in a conversation about how I might purchase children for sex on the black market. My stomach hurt as I brought up the subject, but I fought through it. About two minutes into the exercise, my instructor went silent and turned pale. He stood up from the table and said, ‘I can’t do this. I have a baby daughter.’ Then he walked out of the room . . .”

It’s a totally understandable reaction for a parent. In fact, it was the question foremost in my mind when I interviewed Ballard: Emotionally and psychologically, how do you handle this work?

Ballard is a hero, but he's not superhuman. His humanity drives his work—but also makes it that much more devastating.

The first thing you notice about Tim Ballard is his likability. He's the kind of guy you'd love to have living next door—positive and personable, principled but not pretentious.

He's also brutally honest about the toll this kind of work takes.

When I asked him how he learned to handle seeing the worst of humanity all the time, Ballard said it was really hard, especially in the beginning. Despite regular, government-mandated mental health evaluations, he almost quit several times. He says it got somewhat easier once he learned to stop superimposing his kids’ faces on the faces of the children he was attempting to rescue.

You have to learn to compartmentalize in some ways to do this work, which is a bit ironic, since compartmentalization is also what child traffickers do.

Ballard told a story of an undercover operation in which a trafficker was showing him photos of kids—9 to 11 years old—for sale on his phone. After they finished negotiations, the man said, "I want to show you another picture!" He pulled up a photo of a little girl, about the same age as the others, in a pretty white dress with a bicycle. Ballard asked who she was, and the trafficker told him it was his daughter. "I just bought her this bike for her birthday," he said, "I just love being a dad!"

This proud, doting father sold children to predators for a living, yet had no problem putting his own child into a completely different category.

Ballard says for most child traffickers, it's just business, no different than selling computers or cars.

It's hard to imagine how someone can divorce themselves so fully from their humanity for money. But people who buy and sell children see it as a business like any other. "It's nothing. It's a commodity," Ballard says. "They're so overcome by greed." Most traffickers are men, but there is always a woman involved in a trafficking operation, he says. She is often the one who lures children in and grooms them.

"The scary thing is that they look as normal as anyone," Ballad says. "They’re mostly business people, they’re just out to make money. A child can be sold for 3-4 times the amount that a female adult prostitute would be sold for because of the novelty and demand."

And the demand, Ballard says, is huge. Child trafficking is a $32 billion industry and the fastest-growing criminal enterprise.Today there are 6 million children being sold, mostly for labor or sex.

And the highest demand is right here in the United States. The U.S. is the largest producer and consumer of child pornography, says Ballard. And due to that demand—and the fact that we tend to have money—Americans are child sex traffickers' ultimate clients.

There are basically two kinds of people who buy children for sex, says Ballard.

"The more tragic, but they still need to go to jail," he says, "is people who’ve been abused and who were abused as little boys, and something happens to their minds. Something gets wired into their head about what sex is. So then when they then become a mature adult, they want that sex relationship that they were the victim of at one point."

"And then there’s another group," he says, "which I think is the majority, where they tell me the story—and I’ve heard it so many times . . .'You know, I was 12 years old and I picked up a Playboy, and then all of a sudden one day the adults having sex wasn’t enough, that wasn’t doing it for me. So then I started going into the things that were strange—animals or stuff that was younger. And then I went from 17, then 16, then I tried 14, then 12 . . .'"

Ballard has interrogated many child predators and researched what makes them tick, and has concluded that a certain percentage of porn users will spiral into child pornography.

"Science backs this up about the brain of porn users—not that the majority of porn users would go to that length, but there’s enough. Even a small percentage, since porn use I think in like the 90% range for men—even a small percentage of those if they got affected this way, that’s what happens. The brain releases this cocktail of addictive chemicals, and that gets overstimulated. They need something different to get that high, and so they find themselves looking at 12-year-olds, and then flying to Costa Rica to rape a 10-year-old. And that’s where we find them."

Ballard quit his job with the government in 2013 when he realized he could save more kids with his own operation.

Working for the government, there are specific rules and laws about what you can and can't do, what is and isn't within your jurisdiction. After some missions left Ballard helpless to save kids he had promised families he would rescue, he decided he would found an organization that wouldn't be hampered by the government's limitations, so he could ultimately save more kids in more places.

That's how Ballard's non-profit, Operation Underground Railroad(OUR), was born. Named for the secret network for rescuing slaves during the pre-Civil War era, OUR has created a network of former CIA, DHS, law enforcement officers, and more who cooperate with governments and international groups to rescue kids from child slavery. They train local law enforcement in finding and infiltrating child trafficking operations, provide forensic resources and support, and help get kids into vital after-care programs that help them heal from the trauma of their experiences.

One of OUR's rescue stories is being made into a movie starring Jim Caviezel and Mira Sorvino.

There is so much that I've barely even touched on here, including the harrowing, heart-wrenching stories from rescues Ballard has been a part of. One of those stories is being made into a feature-length film staring Jim Caviezel as Ballard and Mira Sorvino as his wife, Katherine. "Sound of Freedom" is currently in post-production. You can watch an interview with Ballard and Caviezel about the film and Ballard's work here:

We all have a role to play in helping battle child trafficking.

I asked Ballard what the average American can do to help with this issue. He gave the example of Harriet Beecher Stowe, who didn't have any specific skills or ability to rescue slaves, but whose book, "Uncle Tom's Cabin," became a catalyst for the abolitionist cause. She used the skills she had to make a difference.

"What’s your skill set?" Ballard asks. "Find an application. Maybe you like to write, maybe you’re a blogger or an activist, you’re involved with politics, maybe you like to put on events and you can do fundraisers for different groups — there’s a skills set you can use and unless and until we all stand up and do it, this isn’t going anywhere."

"This is still the fastest-growing enterprise on the planet. It’s only growing, and the governments of the world are not going to put it down on their own. Everyone has to ask themselves the question, 'What do I do?' And whatever it is, do it, and apply it to this problem."

For more, see the Operation Underground Railroad website. OUR is an Accredited Charity with the Better Business Bureau's -

Monday, November 12, 2018

Undercover human trafficking sting in Portland, Hillsboro leads to 23 people facing charges

Walter Renderos Jr., Toran Tolleson, jail booking photos

PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) - An undercover human trafficking sting conducted by multiple law enforcement agencies led to 23 people facing charges involving commercial sexual solicitation.
The mission was conducted at two hotels in Portland and Hillsboro.
Undercover investigators communicated online with people seeking sexual acts in exchange for money. The investigators scheduled the encounters at the hotels and then took the suspects into custody when they arrived.“The operation focused on coordinated efforts to break a link in the chain of human trafficking by enforcing state and federal laws, and identifying trafficking victims throughout the Portland metro area,” according to a joint statement from the Gresham Police Department, Hillsboro Police Department, Portland Police Bureau, and Washington County Sheriff's Office.
Two people were arrested at the Hillsboro hotel when police said they arrived seeking a sexual encounter with a minor.
Investigators said Walter Renderos Jr., 29, of Portland, had communicated with someone he believed to be 16 years old through a social networking app.
Toran Tolleson, 21, of Salem, was also arrested after communicating with someone he believed to be 16 years old via another app, according to investigators.
Tolleson and Renderos are facing charges of luring a minor.
In June, a similar enforcement operation resulted in 37 people being charged with commercial sexual solicitation crimes.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

NCMEC - Search For Missing Children Posters


Active AMBER Alerts
NameMissing FromIssued ForAlert Date
Jonathan Nunez-CoronadoPhoenix, AZAZSep 1, 2018
Victor Nunez-CoronadoPhoenix, AZAZSep 1, 2018
Hania AguilarLumberton, NCNCNov 5, 2018
Haley BrandenburgRockwood, TNTNNov 8, 2018
Jayme ClossBarron, WIWIOct 15, 2018

Notice: The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® certifies the posters on this site only if they contain the NCMEC logo and the 1-800-THE-LOST® (1-800-843-5678) number. All other posters are the responsibility of the agency whose logo appears on the poster.

Select an image to view the poster for one of these missing children.

If you have any information, please call:
1-800-843-5678 (1-800-THE-LOST)

Child protection and education in crisis


Published on 07 Nov 2018

From emergency to resilience: Protecting children in crisis contexts

When disaster strikes—be it violent conflict, economic downturn, pandemic or a natural event—children are among the most vulnerable to negative effects. Children may fall victim to any number of threats, including psychosocial distress, family separation, interruption in education, physical and emotional abuse, trafficking and neglect. Through our work in protection, education, resilience and risk reduction, ACTED places the safety and well-being of children at the centre of our programming.


Child and youth friendly spaces

To enhance the protective environment of children during emergencies, ACTED establishes mobile and static Child and Youth Friendly Spaces. These spaces provide at-risk children with a safe environment in which to learn, play, grow and socialize while developing physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Supervised recreational, educational and psychosocial support activities raise awareness of the risks to children and mobilize communities in enhancing their protective environment.

Education in Crisis

In crisis-affected zones, ACTED provides emergency education to support out-of-school children and youth and to sustain previous achievements. ACTED’s interventions aim to reach all school-age children and to support community committees of education structure schools and classes. Education in crisis programming also includes training for community teachers and child-friendly spaces animators, improving the quality of education and ensuring the long-term sustainability of educational programmes in crisis-affected areas.

Among other life-saving services provided immediately post-crisis, ACTED is innovating our services by including flash interventions with contingency education.

Crisis Protection Case Management

To help at-risk children develop the positive coping skills they need to become resilient, ACTED provides case management to individual children and their families. Case Management is a way of organizing and carrying out work to promote the well-being of children and their families in an appropriate, systematic and timely manner.

Through direct support and/or referrals—and in accordance with a project or program’s objectives— case management services help reduce protection risks and increase protective factors for children. ACTED’s case management strategy places the best interest of the child at the forefront of all decision making. This case-by-case approach strengthens both the child and the family’s resilience to risks and stressors.

Capacity Building

ACTED is focused on supporting local communities increase their capacity to protect and support children. Through child safety audits, child protection mainstreaming, training, mentorship, awareness raising, outreach and community mobilization, we are working to ensure a safer future for vulnerable children.


Children are comparatively less physically/mentally/emotionally capable or resilient than adults

Children, from birth to adulthood, go through a process of total dependence to independence in which they are exposed to risks.

Children are most at risk of abuse, exploitation, neglect and violence at the hands of adults due to their vulnerability

Depending on the stage of childhood development, children have different levels of language, literacy, knowledge, resources, skills, capacity which determine how they can and cannot interact with adults and seek support


Safe spaces for disaplced children in Iraq

For ACTED in Iraq, child protection is one of the core sectors of intervention.

1.4 million children have been displaced within the country since 2014, causing widespread vulnerabilities like psychosocial trauma, family separation, injury and more. That is why ACTED implements several child protection projects which aim at providing both case management and psychological support, non-formal education and recreational activities to displaced boys and girls, living in and out of camps in Iraq.

In Mosul, for example, ACTED’s Child and Youth Friendly Spaces support 3,500 conflict-affected children and youth, providing access to the psychosocial support and education they need to cope, recover and thrive.

Emergency education in Central African Republic

ACTED supports emergency education activities in CAR for children who have dropped out of the school system due to conflict and displacement.

In Obo, ACTED is renovating classrooms and training parents in basic pedagogy. This August, 650 children – from displaced or non-displaced families and from different religious and ethnic groups – returned to school in Obo. ACTED’s educational programming builds social cohesion while allowing children in conflict-affected communities to continue their studies in a safe and structured environment. As part of ACTED’s mission to support the sustainable development of vulnerable communities, the emergency education program in CAR provides youth with the tools they need to become the future leaders of resilient communities.

More on ACTED’s work to protect children during crises:

4 Suspects Arrested In Delaware Human Trafficking Case, Police Say

Laurel– The Delaware State Police in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations have arrested four suspects in connection with a human trafficking case.
The investigation began on Wednesday, October 30, 2018 when Troopers were dispatched to the Relax Inn located at 30702 Sussex Highway at approximately 8:28 a.m., for a report of a female who was being held against her will and forced to perform sex acts on people.  Upon arrival, Troopers located a 22-year-old female victim from Maryland.  It was learned that the victim had been taken back and forth between Delaware and Maryland against her will and forced to perform commercial sex acts on multiple people in exchange for compensation.
Three suspects were initially taken into custody at the Relax Inn without incident, 25-year-old David B. Goodwin of Federalsburg, MD, 27-year-old Kevonne L. Murphy of Federalsburg, MD, and 38-year-old Lakeya N. Aldridge of Federalsburg, MD.
Through investigative measures a fourth suspect was identified as 30-year-old Joshua Lankford of Federalsburg, MD.
All four suspects were charged with the following:
  • Kidnapping First Degree
  • Human Trafficking – Sexual Servitude
  • Trafficking an Individual
  • Conspiracy Second Degree
Goodwin, Murphy, and Aldridge were transported back to Troop 4 and arraigned before the Justice of the Peace Court 3.  Goodwin and Murphy were committed to the Sussex Correctional Institution on $100,000.00 cash only bond.  Aldridge was committed to the Delores J. Baylor Women’s Correctional Institution on $102,000.00 cash only bond.
On November 2, 2018 Lankford was taken into custody by the U.S. Marshals Task Force at a residence in the 3000 block of Holland Drive, Federalsburg, MD without incident.  He was extradited back to Delaware where he was arraigned before the Justice of the Peace Court 2 and committed to the Sussex Correctional Institution on $102,000.00 cash only bond.
If you or someone you know is a victim or witness of crime or have lost a loved one to a sudden death and are in need of assistance, the Delaware State Police Victim Services Unit/Delaware Victim Center is available to offer you support and resources 24 hours a day through a toll free hotline 1800 VICTIM-1. (1-800 842-8461).  You may also email the unit Director at

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Human Trafficker Convicted of Human Trafficking of Minors

FILE - In this Nov. 1, 2016, file photo, detainees wait in a cell for an appearance in Sacramento county superior court in Sacramento, Calif. A new law to end money bail for suspects awaiting trial will take effect in Oct. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, file)
A Los Angeles man was convicted Thursday of trafficking teenage girls as young as 13 for commercial sex.
A jury in downtown Los Angeles found Raylonzo Roberts, 43, guilty of two felony counts each of pandering by procuring a minor under age 16, human trafficking of a minor for a commercial sex act, human trafficking of a minor for a commercial sex act by force, fear, fraud or threat of injury and lewd act on a child, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.
Jurors also convicted Roberts of one count each of human trafficking to commit another crime, aggravated sexual assault of a child and possession of a firearm by a felon.
The crimes involving eight girls occurred at various times between August 2011 and July 2015, according to Deputy District Attorney Guillermo Santiso.Roberts was arrested in August 2015 in connection with an investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department's South Bureau Human Trafficking unit and the Long Beach Police Department. He has remained behind bars since then.
Roberts is facing multiple life prison terms, with sentencing set Nov. 26.