CASE UPDATE: In Episode 04, Matt shared the story of his return to an alley that he had glimpsed in passing once before, years earlier. He encountered a group of young girls being trafficked on a side street and sent our operatives back to investigate.
In this episode of Until All Are Free, we pick the story back up and hear from an investigator who was sent down that alley to capture evidence of trafficking.
Preston Goff: (00:22)
This is Until All are Free, a podcast by The Exodus Road. I’m Preston Goff. A few months back, we released the episode called Pin Drop. Matt shared a story of a chance encounter he had in a taxi, driving over a set of railroad tracks and seeing women working in the shadows. It took Matt years to find that location again, but when he did, he dropped a pin on his phone so that they could follow up investigations at that location. If you haven’t given that episode a listen, I want you to stop now, seriously, push pause, and go take a listen before jumping into this episode.
Preston Goff: (00:59)
Well, if you’re still here, I’m excited to bring you an update on the Pin Drop operation and offer another perspective from David Zach, the investigator that Matt sent on this case. The title Pin Drop has significance beyond what I had initially realized, and you’ll want to learn why. A quick note, this episode has mature themes that might not be suitable for all listeners. Okay. Here’s the story.
David Zach: (01:29)
When I listened to the Pin Drop episode, I wasn’t sure what operation that we were talking about until I learned about it a little bit. And I was part of the team that went down to that alley, walked over the train tracks with dogs barking, into a place where Matt says, “I’m not quite sure if there’s anything going on here, but go and look.” For me, it was a little bit ironic that the operation was Called Pin drop. I had to drop a pin that night too, but it was in a different way.
David Zach: (02:09)
Well, the first night we were there to go and check out some old intelligence that Matt had about an alley. That alley had always bothered him … that he could never get back to it. So when he did see it again, years later, like he talked about in the podcast, he dropped a pin. So he sent us out. He said, “This is different. It’s a little more dangerous. I don’t have no idea what I’m sending you into. So be prepared, be alert.”
David Zach: (02:40)
And we showed up there with the whole purpose of just doing some reconnaissance, find out what’s going on. With no intention, other than trying to capture covert footage evidence of what’s going on. In the dark, flickering lights. And I was disappointed when we first got down there, because I’m looking at my GPS, I’m looking at the pin drop. I’m like, “There’s nothing here. We’re on this pin drop.” I was like, “Well, let’s walk down this way.” And following directions, you can get mixed up, you can get backwards. But I was like, “Oh, here’s the train tracks. Here’s the road.” And then I realized, “Okay, it might be down here a block.” And we almost gave up.
David Zach: (03:21)
If you drove by it, and you’re tourists, you’d be like, “That’s weird. There’s like a few girls standing out there.” And then if you look closer, you see, oh, there’s even more in the shadows. The operation that they were running is a small operation. There’s like 20 girls, maybe. Trucks on either side with security sitting in those trucks and outside of those trucks. And a table with some food. And then couple of lawn chair type things in a back alley. Somehow locals know, that’s where you can drive through and buy sex for cheap. And oftentimes, with underage girls.
David Zach: (04:01)
The second night we went back to that alley, we had to get evidence that these girls were for sale for sex. And we put our heads together. And we wanted to convince everybody there that my team, my buddies, we’re stumbling into this. You don’t just show up at this alley. So we’re just stumbling into this alley as some stupid foreigners. And why, from their perspective, are we walking in this alley? Why don’t we go to one of these … all the different commercial sex areas that are selling girls as well. They’re going to be suspicious. Are these guys here, are these guys law enforcement? Are these guys working with law enforcement? How do we keep them from being suspicious?
David Zach: (04:47)
And what we came up was saying, “This guy has been in the country for a week. We’ve been partying, celebrating, and he’s never really had a good time. So we’re going to buy him a good time.” And we’re going to make a big show of everybody pulling out their money so that the girl knows that they’re all buying the girl for me. And everybody else sees them pushing me forward and saying, “Hey, don’t be shy,” type thing. And so that when I was with her, I could let her know that, “Hey, they just did this. I’m not really interested. Let’s just talk for a bit.”
David Zach: (05:26)
The place where they told me I would take the girl, they kind of motioned over behind them. So I assumed that the place where you take girls from this alley was maybe a hotel or a little place where they have rooms within a block of there. That’s what it seemed like to me when we were in the middle of it. And that’s what was in all of our heads, based on what we all observed the night before. And they’re going to go and maybe hang out in the lobby of a hotel, if it’s a hotel, or maybe get a drink across the street.
Preston Goff: (05:53)
David Zach: (05:53)
Yeah, the team is going to. And that keeps me safe, keeps me accountable. Because from the moment I’m … 100% of the time that I am with that girl, there is video evidence of the whole of that. And a lot of times, some of that video evidence is coming from the other guys or gals that are running support on the operation.
David Zach: (06:17)
So we were completely blindsided when a vehicle pulled up, because we were like, “Where do I go?” And they’re like, “Oh, right here.” And a car pulls up. And then they’re like, “Get in the car.” And one of my buddies, I’ll never forget, he was like, “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.” The door shuts. And then I’m like, “Oh, no. Where am I going now?”
David Zach: (06:39)
There’s a significant amount of fear at that point for me, because I’m in a car, barely know where I am on the map. Taken away from my team, who oftentimes, my team are guys that have seen direct action. They’ve seen action. They’ve taken action. And I am a musician. And if something goes down, other than having this woman from Australia teach me a few like, stun and run techniques in my living room … she beat me up in front of my wife in my living room. I don’t really have a lot of experience with that side of things.
David Zach: (07:18)
And so I’m alone. I’m alone in a major city in Asia, in a vehicle with a man that’s a criminal, driving me and a child somewhere … a teenager. Driving us somewhere. And I have no idea where that is. And so I’m texting the team like, “Hey, I’m in a car. It’s taking a right at the end of the block.” At that point, there’s so much going on. There’s so many different reasons to be nervous. There’s this 15 year old girl sitting in the car with me that’s scared me. And I’m trying to keep her from … I don’t want her to be scared.
David Zach: (07:55)
But we came up with a contingency plan. They just said, “Share a pin.” So I shared several pins … it was felt like it felt like a half an hour drive, but it was probably 10 minutes. And then we’re there. And I’m trying to keep this girl from being scared. Trying to pretend that that I’m still going to go through with this. Communicating with the team.
Preston Goff: (08:22)
David Zach: (08:22)
This place was like, you could call it a hotel, where I ended up. Where the car dropped me off. And the whole time, I’m just like, “What do we do now?” Nobody speaks the same language. She speaks zero English. She does not know any English words. So you’re communicating via Google translate on her phone and your phone. And that’s not very accurate. Google translate is not. So you just have to go with the flow. But she knew exactly what she was supposed to do. She walks in, in what would feel like a lobby of a hotel. There was somebody that handed her a key and she took me up to the second floor.
David Zach: (08:59)
And that was where I was able to tell her, “I’m not really interested in going through with this, but let’s wait a little bit and pretend.” And she actually wrote on her phone to me when we were together, she’s like, “So actually you’re being coerced to do this?” And I’m like, “Yeah, I am.” And she laughed. She thought it was funny. And once she realized that I wasn’t going to go through with it, there was a great chance for me to get an incredible amount of information from her. Really incriminating everybody that was there and everybody that was involved.
David Zach: (09:39)
And she’s a trafficked girl, she was 100% trafficked. And I know it. And I have video of her saying it. And she’s scared, but I didn’t have to say, “Hey, don’t tell the people that we didn’t go through with this.” I can just simply say to her, “Hey, don’t tell anybody. I don’t want my friends to know, they spent some good money on this. So let’s just stay here for another 10 minutes and then let’s go back over, so everybody …” And then she’s in on it, without having any idea that I’m there to try to rescue her. She still has no idea. Which keeps her safe and keeps the operation safe.
David Zach: (10:23)
That was not exciting for me a second time, is I’m not sure at that point where my team is, but I’m trusting. And I told them what floor I was on, what room we went to. And then I walk out. Later on, I see footage from their perspective, of me walking out. They were getting the license plate of the vehicle, they were doing a great job. That vehicle takes me back over to that alley. And then I’m just stuck at that alley, hanging out with that group of people by myself, waiting for my team to come back. With the traffickers. With the girls they’re selling. On my own, as car, after car, after car pulls up and buys girls and leaves with girls.
David Zach: (11:07)
Because the reason they brought a car is because it’s just abnormal for people to buy girls on foot in this location. Because usually those guys will take the girls, and then the girls are responsible for getting a motorcycle taxi back over to that alley. So I was there probably 20 minutes. Just me. They did not want me sitting down in the area where they’re doing business because all the customers were going to be like, what’s this white dude doing here? And so they kept on moving me way down, and it was probably 20 … probably 30 yards away.
David Zach: (11:38)
And I’m just sitting there videotaping the whole thing, the whole time. Getting evidence. And then I just would wander over and try to make an excuse to be back over, because I wanted to get a really good screen grab of every single person’s face. Whether they’re a victim or a broker or security, license plates of the vehicles, proof of what’s going on. And it worked out great. My team, they were there shortly, behind me. I think they jumped on motorcycle taxis. And then I had total peace because I knew that no matter where I end up, my team was going to be there with me, watching. And so when I heard the episode with Matt, I thought it was ironic that it was called Pin Drop.
Preston Goff: (12:16)
Well, a big thank you to David Zach for sharing this story with us. David is the front man for the band Remedy Drive, whose latest albums are influenced by Zach’s experience working undercover with The Exodus Road. You can listen to Remedy Drive on major streaming platforms, or purchase their music at remedydrive.com. Until All are Free is a podcast by The Exodus Road, a nonprofit dedicated to the strategic fight against human trafficking around the world. You can learn more about The Exodus Road at theexodusroad.com.
Preston Goff: (12:56)
The podcast is hosted by me, Preston Goff, and produced by Isaac Leigh. Our internal themes are produced by Lucas Leigh. And the music you’ve heard on the intro and outro was generously donated by City of Sound. We’re working hard on new episodes of the podcast right now, and I don’t want you to miss out. So take a moment and subscribe, wherever you’re listening to this episode, to be notified when our next show is available. And if you’re listening on Apple podcasts, I’d love for you to take a moment to rate and review us. It really does help.
Speaker 3: (13:34)
All the things we had suspected, she confirmed. And she was giving me names, she was giving me addresses where they held her, how it all worked.
David Zach: (13:40)
It’s any sort of environment where everything in you tells you to cross the street and walk the other way. Matt always was curious about those places.
Speaker 3: (13:50)
You get the sentiment from survivors of, Hey, I got out, but I left girls behind. Promise me you’ll go back and get them.”
David Zach: (13:58)
And then it’s a slow-moving elevator. We’ve been in a lot of elevators together, and all of them are a little bit spooky.
Speaker 3: (14:06)
And I’m highly suspicious at this moment because I’ve been in lots of clubs. I’ve been undercover in lots of clubs. And very few of them had the same feeling. And I mean, I’m thinking, “This is a setup.”
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