Actress Laurie Holden, perhaps best known for her portrayal of Andrea in TV’s “The Walking Dead” was part of a real world undercover sting operation called Operation Underground Railroad designed to bring a “notorious sex trafficker” to justice, according to an Oct. 19 report from Rolling Stone. The sting operation was the brainchild of Tim Ballard – a former agent with 12 years of experience working for both Homeland Security and the CIA – who solicited help from volunteers including “two CrossFit instructors from Utah, a door-to-door salesman, and Holden, who portrayed ‘Andrea’ on ‘The Walking Dead,’” until her character was killed off in the show toward the end of season three.
The sting operation helped free around 55 sex slaves, some as young as 12, and brought down one sex trafficking kingpin, Marcus Bronschidle. Holden’s part in the sting was to keep the girls occupied while Ballard negotiated payment for the girls with the head sex trafficker – who didn’t realize that the operation was being videotaped for posterity and ultimately as evidence to be used against him.
ABC News reported that the sting went down in Cartagena, Colombia, with Ballard and Bronschidle seated in an open air café, “bartering over the price of sex with several young girls.” A fake children’s birthday party was orchestrated by Ballard in an attempt to make the sex traffickers comfortable and at ease during negotiations.
Ballard and his team worked for months planning the sting in cooperation with officials in Columbia. As far as the sex traffickers knew, Ballard wanted to hire the underage prostitutes out for a big bachelor party in Cartagena that he was trying to put together.
Then the sex traffickers started to arrive with the girls. Unaware that hidden cameras are rolling or that police were waiting, Bronschidle, one of the sex traffickers, talked up one of the girls, who he said was 14 and was ready for “everything.”
Following the sting and the arrests of four sex traffickers, Holden said that the young girls, some 12 and 13 but mostly 14, “looked really terrified. One of the girls came in, embraced me, started to cry, then I started to cry,” Holden said in a post-sting interview.
“What makes me sad is that yes, we got four traffickers, and I hope they fry, but what makes me sad is that so many of these little girls, they don’t know any different. I know we did some good tonight. But I know that more needs to be done.”
Operation Underground Railroad and the video captured during the sting will be part of a future documentary entitled “The Abolitionists.” The sting operation was also featured on ABC’s “Nightline.”