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Operation Underground Railroad

CharityWatch report issued
October 2020

 
CharityWatch Grade
 

Contact Information

Operation Underground Railroad
1950 W Corporate Way
Anaheim, CA 92801

Other Names

None

Tax Status

501(c)3

Stated Mission

To use cutting-edge technology and human intelligence to go into the darkest corners of the world to help local law enforcement liberate enslaved children and dismantle criminal networks.

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Data based on Fiscal Year Ended 12/31/2019

*Why a Question Mark Rating?

CharityWatch currently has concerns about this organization and/or is unable to provide complete rating information due to the organization's nondisclosure of financial information. Please see the Analysts' Notes section for a more detailed explanation.


Governance & Transparency

CharityWatch evaluates certain criteria related to a charity's Governance and Transparency. Donors may want to consider a charity's willingness to be open and transparent with CharityWatch to be a good litmus test for determining its commitment to public accountability.
Operation Underground Railroad
meets governance benchmarks.
 
Operation Underground Railroad
meets transparency benchmarks.
Transparency
Provides Financial Information
Audit Accessibility
Governance: Policies
Reports regularly & consistently monitoring & enforcing compliance with a written Conflict of Interest Policy
Reports required, annual disclosure by officers, directors, and key staff of interests that could give rise to conflicts
Reports having a written Whistleblower Policy
Reports having a written Document Retention and Destruction Policy
Governance: Financials
Reports providing copy of tax form to all board members prior to filing it with IRS
Reports that financial statements were audited by an independent accountant
Governance: Board of Directors
Reports at least 5 voting board members
51% or more of voting board members reported as independent
Reports documenting minutes of board and board committee meetings
Privacy Policy
Privacy Policy

  Name Title Compensation
1 Jerry Gowen CEO $208,589
2 Jonathan Lines President of Operations $172,730
3 Tim Ballard Founder $106,354
1
Name: Jerry Gowen
Title: CEO
Compensation: $208,589
2
Name: Jonathan Lines
Title: President of Operations
Compensation: $172,730
3
Name: Tim Ballard
Title: Founder
Compensation: $106,354

CharityWatch Analysts perform an in-depth analysis of charities' audited financial statements and IRS tax filings, and often review other documents such as state filings, annual reports, and fundraising contracts during their evaluations. Below are select notes that CharityWatch believes may be of interest to donors.

CharityWatch is providing a "?" rating for Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.) at this time due to our concerns related to a reported investigation into the organization, according to Fox 13 News of Salt Lake City, Utah.  

In an article published by Fox 13 Salt Lake City in October 2020, Davis County (Utah) Attorney, Troy Rawlings, confirmed that an investigation into Operation Underground Railroad is "ongoing," and that his office has "received complaints" and is "in the process of reviewing those complaints." Rawlings did not specify why O.U.R. is under investigation and would not release records concerning the inquiry to Fox News, according to the article, on the basis that doing so "would interfere with that investigation." 

Fox 13 News also reported in the article that Rawlings, in an Instagram post, "implied [that] a local nonprofit was conducting illegal fundraising efforts by taking credit for arrests made by the Davis County Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force." Rawlings did not name the local nonprofit in the post. 

An investigation by VICE World News touched on a similar concern. According to a December 2020 article published in VICE: "An investigation by VICE World News focused on OUR's operations identified a divide between the group's actual practices and some of its claimed successes. What we [VICE] found aren't outright falsehoods but a pattern of image-burnishing and mythology-building, a series of exaggerations that are, in aggregate, quite misleading." 

CharityWatch contacted Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings by email and voicemail in June 2021 asking him to confirm the existence of an investigation into O.U.R. by his office, and asking if he was able to provide any further comment. As of July 15, 2021, Rawlings did not respond to our inquiries. In June 2021, CharityWatch also contacted O.U.R. via email to request copies of O.U.R.'s fiscal 2020 audited financial statements and Form 990 tax filing, and to ask for comment on the reported criminal investigation into its activities. As of July 15, 2021, we have not received a response from O.U.R. In the event one or both parties responds to our inquiries in the future, or if O.U.R. provides its updated financial documents to us, we may update our rating of Operation Underground Railroad at that time.

According to the Operation Underground Railroad (OUR) 2019 tax filing, OUR reports receiving contributions of non-cash items on which it placed a value of $681,455 and donated services and use of facilities on which it placed a value of $167,138 (IRS Form 990, Schedule M and Schedule D, Part XI).

[Note: CharityWatch generally excludes the value of in-kind (non-cash) donations of goods and services from its calculations of Program % and Cost to Raise $100. More information on how grades are calculated and the treatment of in-kind donations can be found on the Our Process page.]

According to the Operation Underground Railroad (OUR) 2019 tax filing re: the existence of a family or business relationship among officers, directors, trustees, or key employees (IRS Form 990, Part VI, Section A, line 2), OUR reports:

"Multiple Officers and Directors have a family relationship. Todd Reynolds (Director) is Tim Ballard's (Founder) brother in law. Julianne Blake (Director) is Tim Ballard's sister. Tevya Ware (CFO) is Tim Ballard's sister in law. Mark [sic] Reynolds (Secretary) is Todd Reynolds' brother."

[Todd Reynolds, Marc Reynolds, and Julianne Blake are reported as three of OUR's five board members in 2019  (IRS Form 990, Part VII).]


Also according to the Operation Underground Railroad 2019 tax filing, OUR reports for Business Transactions Involving Interested Persons (IRS Form 990, Schedule L, Parts IV & V):

(1) A transaction in the amount of $18,415 involving Kelly Wilson / Allred Jackson, "Board Member," and described as "Tax return preparation."

(2) A transaction in the amount of $13,340 involving Austin Ware, "Child of Officer," and described as "Employee."

[OUR reports Kelly Wilson as President of the Board. Tevya Ware is reported as the Chief Financial Officer (IRS Form 990, Part VII).]

According to the Operation Underground Railroad combined audit of December 31, 2019 (Note 2 re: Subsequent Events):

"On January 30, 2020, the World Health Organization ('WHO') announced a global health emergency because of a new strain of coronavirus originating in Wuhan, China (the 'COVID-19 outbreak') and the risks to the international community as the virus spreads globally beyond its point of origin. In March 2020, the WHO classified the COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic, based on the rapid increase in exposure globally.

"The full impact of the COVID-19 outbreak continues to evolve as of the date of this report [April 15, 2020]. As such, it is uncertain as to the full magnitude that the pandemic will have on the Company's financial condition, liquidity, and future results of operations. Management is actively monitoring the global situation on its financial condition, liquidity, operations, suppliers, industry, and workforce. Given the daily evolution of the COVID-19 outbreak and the global responses to curb its spread, the Company is not able to estimate the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak on its operations, financial condition, or liquidity for fiscal year 2020."


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