Leading human trafficking NGO has close ties with questionable genetics company

“The Sound of Freedom” organization traded executives with Predictive Technology Group

Originally published on Microjourneys.

Operation Underground Railroad, the human trafficking organization featured in the runaway hit movie, The Sound of Freedom, has strong ties with genetic technology company Predictive Technology Group.

How’s that for a lede? Allow me to explain.

A few weeks ago, I published a Microjourney exploring a company called Pure Blood Registry. In summary, it offers its customers access to a curated list of blood donors who declare having not received a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine, rendering their blood “pure” for transfusion.

While I have numerous concerns with the business itself (from the name to its terms of service), what really piqued my interest was Pure Blood Registry’s list of partners.

Image source: Pure Blood Registry

MyID was the first name that caught my eye, in no small part because of its connection to the story of the disaster in East Palestine, Ohio — however relevant that aspect may or may not be.1, 2 But my investigation quickly led me into the strange world of another company called Predictive Technology Group, with whom MyID had collaborated on a COVID-19 antibody test called Assurance AB.3

Over the past few weeks, I have continued to pull on the so-called “Predictive” thread, and have been utterly perplexed by what I’ve found. You could say I didn’t “predict” where this line of inquiry would take me.

Meet Simon Brewer

Simon Brewer, CPA - Chief Financial Officer - Operation Underground  Railroad | LinkedIn
Image source: LinkedIn

Simon Brewer is a certified professional accountant (CPA) based in Salt Lake City, Utah.4 There’s a couple of things I’d like you to know about him.

Brewer is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, colloquially known as the Mormon Church.5

As part of his faith, Brewer travelled to Russia for a two-year mission from 1997-1999, visiting the cities of Yekaterinburg, Ufa and Chelyabinsk. According to his LinkedIn profile, Brewer “planned service activities, taught English classes, and planned large meetings,” which helped him develop conversational fluency in Russian.

He then studied at the University of Utah from 2000-2004, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Accounting with a minor in Russian. He graduated in 2005 with a Masters Degree in Accounting.

From 2005-2009, Brewer worked as a Supervising Senior Associate at KPMG. His clients included the United States Department of EnergyUnited States Department of the InteriorCHG Healthcare (one of the largest healthcare staffing agencies in the country)6 and United Way. From 2009-2013, he worked as Corporate Controller at Backcountry, an online retailer that sells outdoor gear. He also worked as an Associate Instructor at the University of Utah in the accounting department from 2010-2013.

In 2013, Brewer was recruited by Wilson Electronics as their new Vice President of Finance and IT. Wilson sells signal boosters for cell phones, which “allows businesses and consumers to easily enjoy 5G.”7 The company claims to work closely with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the branch of the United States government responsible for regulating the wireless communications industry. He worked there from 2013-2016.

Brewer’s next two years were spent as Chief Financial Officer at Norbest, “one of the top turkey marketing firms in the United States.”8 A rather odd career move, but one where he created a “big data” group to “add databases and informational flows to help in decision making.”

Then, in 2018, Brewer was “[r]ecruited to Predictive Technology Group, Inc. as CFO and head of accounting, finance, IT and HR prior to major Company growth from cutting-edge DNA products.” In other words, Brewer’s arrival came just before the company underwent significant expansion, specifically in the realm of DNA analysis and therapeutics.

Federal filings and a market research report reveal he started as Chief Accounting Officer in January 2018, and as Chief Financial Officer on July 1, 2018.9, 10 His LinkedIn profile puts him at both Predictive Technology Group and its subsidiary, Predictive Biotech, from 2018-2021. He is also registered as Treasurer for LifeCode Genetics, another of the many Predictive subsidiaries.11

Image source: LinkedIn

Moreover, Brewer takes credit for completing “identification, due diligence, financial viability, accounting and integration of 6 acquisitions.” If Hindenburg Investment Research’s analysis published on Seeking Alpha is correct, then this might not be something to be bragging too loudly about. Based on that article and my own research, some of those six acquired companies are most likely Taueret Laboratories,12 Inception Dx,13 FlagShipHealth Group,14 Regenerative Medical Technologies (RMT)15 and possibly CellSure.16

CellSure is a stem cell donation company founded by none other than Eric Olson, CEO of MyID and Predictive Biotech.17 On his LinkedIn page, Olson describes CellSure as a company “focused on procuring human tissue, cells and DNA for clinical studies and product development.”18 A CellSure fact sheet from April 2021 describes the company as a subsidiary of Predictive Biotech.19

As a quick side note, the lawyer registered as a manager for CellSure is Jim Pesoli, whose former partner was convicted by a federal judge in December 2022 for “swindling $2.6 million from hospitals seeking coveted protective gear in the traumatic early days of the COVID-19 pandemic and blowing much of it on credit cards and luxury cars.”20

Image source: University of Utah, via Google Cache

In May 2019, Brewer went back to work at the University of Utah as an Adjunct Instructor in Accounting. His staff profile has since been wiped from the school’s website, but I was able to recover it from Google’s cache.21

He does, however, still have a profile on Rate My Professors, where one student complained about how often he would go on tangents and tell “irrelevant stories about Area 51 during his time auditing.”22

Image source: Rate My Professors

Now, I’m no expert on Area 51, but my gut tells me that not just anybody gets to take a look at those books. As described by Military.com, Area 51 is “a highly classified United States military installation” which “was not officially acknowledged by the CIA as a military base until June 2013.”23

It sits on land with a history of tight control by both the Department of the Interior and Department of Energy,24 so it’s not a big leap to speculate that Brewer may be telling the truth about conducting audits there. That does, however, suggest that Brewer received sufficient security clearance, since the base’s primary occupants are the Air Force and the Central Intelligence Agency.25

Finally, in July 2021, Brewer was “[r]ecruited to fight against human trafficking worldwide at a nonprofit dedicated to the cause” — specifically, Operation Underground Railroad.

File:Operation Underground Railroad logo.png - Wikipedia

What is Operation Underground Railroad, you may ask? Great question. For that answer, let’s turn to the movies.

The Sound of Freedom

Operation Underground Railroad (OUR) was the subject of this year’s runaway hit movie, The Sound of Freedom, which premiered on July 4. As covered in the BBC:26

“Sound of Freedom tells the story of a government agent who busts a child sexual abuse ring operating in Colombia.

The main character is based on Timothy Ballard, a former Department of Homeland Security agent who founded an anti-human trafficking organisation, Operation Underground Railroad (OUR).”

According to the filmmakers, the movie is based on the true story of Tim Ballard and his noble quest to save children stuck in the all-too-real child sex trafficking industry. As with any biopic, it is a “fictionalization” of real events;27 nonetheless, it presents itself as an advertisement both of the problem and Operation Underground Railroad’s valiant efforts to resolve it.

Tim Ballard's misleading anti-trafficking rhetoric slips seamlessly into  transphobia and xenophobia while promoting “Sound of Freedom” on Fox News |  Media Matters for America
Image source: Media Matters for America

Without a doubt, it is a noble cause. Apart from the absurd handwaving dismissals of the film that accuse it of doing no more than promoting “QAnon conspiracy theories,”28 I think any reasonable person would agree that a world where this kind of human trafficking operation exists at all is simply untenable. And in the face of government obstruction (such as is depicted in The Sound of Freedom) and apparent collusion (the late convicted sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein had some really powerful friends),29, 30, 31 one can at least theoretically understand why a non-governmental organization such as Operation Underground Railroad would decide to take matters into its own hands.

For now, let’s take OUR at face value, as an organization seeking to raise awareness about child trafficking and apply some vigilante justice to stop the bad guys. As I’m sure you’ve already surmised, OUR faces a number of credible criticisms that potentially undermine its purported good intentions. But for the sake of staying within scope, I will leave those for another day.

In the meantime, it’s safe to say that Simon Brewer was taken by the mission, one which led him to leave his high-level position at Predictive Technology Group in order to join Operation Underground Railroad. This turns out to have been a trend in Brewer’s circles.

Meet Jeff Carter

Image source: Twitter

Jeffrey Layne Carter is an American goat retail industry specialist based in Draper, Utah,32 a suburb of Salt Lake City.33 His LinkedIn profile lists the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as his top interest, suggesting he may, too, be Mormon.

This rather innocuous detail is not the only thing Jeff Carter has in common with Simon Brewer. From November 2001 to January 2019, Carter worked in a series of high-level positions at Backcountry, the aforementioned outdoor gear retailer.34 Brewer’s tenure as Corporate Controller between 2009-2013 took place while Carter was Vice President, and then Senior Vice President, of Fulfillment Operations.

Backcountry and John Malone

Colorado billionaire gives CSU $42.5M for stem cell research | Colorado  Public Radio
Image source: CPR News

Notably, a controlling stake in Backcountry was acquired in May 2007 by Liberty Media, a mass media corporation owned by billionaire John C. Malone.35 Described by The Gentleman’s Journal as “the most powerful man that you’ve never heard of,” Malone’s media empire rivals that of the Murdoch family, with sizeable stakes in some of the world’s most notable news agencies and film studios.36 Believe it or not, he even came close to a hostile takeover of Murdoch’s News Corporation.37 He also happens to be one of the largest (if not the largest) private land owner(s) in the United States of America.38

Malone also just so happens to be enthusiastic about genetic medicine. In December 2014, he and his wife donated $42.5 million to Colorado State University for the creation of the C. Wayne McIlwraith Translational Medicine Institute, borne out of the couple’s fascination for “the healing power of stem cells” — and horses.39 The intent of the donation was to create a facility to “investigate next-generation remedies based on living cells and their products, including patient-derived stem cells, to treat musculoskeletal disease and other ailments.” More specifically, “gene therapy, stem cells, specialized tissue replacement and novel proteins.”

The Institute opened its doors in May 2019.40 At that point, Malone’s portfolio through his Malone Family Foundation held a healthy, and profitable, stake in Pfizer,41 which would go on to roll out an experimental gene therapy product to much of the world’s population starting just one year later in the form of its mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine. Other companies in Malone’s portfolio with an interest in gene therapy, novel proteins and the like include Gilead SciencesJohnson & JohnsonMerck and Novartis.

2019 filing for the Malone Family Foundation. Image source: ProPublica

Needless to say, 2020 and 2021 were excellent years on the stock market for Mr. Malone.42, 43

Now, back to our friend Jeff Carter…

After over 17 years working at Backcountry, Jeff Carter left to take a job as Senior Vice President of Operations at Predictive Biotech in February 2019 — reunited with his old coworker Simon Brewer, who was at this point working as CFO at Predictive. Then, in September 2021, Carter jumped over to Operation Underground Railroad as its Chief Commerce Officer (just two months after Brewer).

At this point, there are many plausible explanations as to why these two would follow such a similar career trajectory. For one, they may have just been good buddies and effective co-workers, successfully leveraging each other’s promotions to get the other guy a gig. Case closed, right?


Meet Will Oborn

Image source: LinkedIn

Will Oborn is a customer service specialist based in Salt Lake City, Utah. He is visibly younger than Simon Brewer and Jeff Carter, suggesting they are not simply contemporaries.

They did all work together, however. After early gigs in restaurant and retail (plus a sweet gig with the company that manufactures compound bows for the Olympics, Hunger Games and Avengers),44 Oborn wound up at — you guessed it — Backcountry.45 He began as a customer service representative in August 2016, working his way up to customer loyalty team lead by the time of his departure in November 2019.

Oborn was then, too, recruited to Predictive Biotech, starting as a Relationship Manager and then Customer Service Supervisor. He stayed in the latter position from July 2020 to July 2021, before making his ultimate leap to Operation Underground Railroad as Customer Service Manager.

You know, “Operation Underground Railroad” may be more appropriate as a name than I previously realized, what with all of these recruits being ferried down the same track. It’s now really hard to see this as coincidence.

Meet their friends

What?! There’s even more people to add to the list? Yes, it’s true. There are further examples of people who check off a large number of these same boxes, though not all of them are quite identical.

Carlos Bauer

Carlos Bauer, CPA - VP of Finance and Accounting at Not-For-Profit -  Not-For-Profit | LinkedIn
Image source: LinkedIn

Carlos Bauer is a certified professional accountant based in… yep, Salt Lake City, Utah. His LinkedIn profile even boasts an endorsement from the “highly skilled” Simon Brewer.46

Bauer worked his way up through junior accounting and senior associate positions from 2010 to 2017, when he started a nine-month gig as Controller of Nielson RV. He took this job title with him when he was hired at Predictive Technology Group in April 2018, where he remained until April 2021. Like clockwork, Bauer then hopped over to his new gig at Operation Underground Railroad, working variably as Controller, Treasurer and VP of Finance and Accounting, where he remains to this day.

Interestingly, Bauer’s LinkedIn profile doesn’t explicitly name the not-for-profit organization he works for. However, OUR’s most recent tax filings confirm Bauer’s position and the timing of his employment.47

Image source: ProPublica

How about another?

Taylor Huckstep

Image source: LinkedIn

Taylor Huckstep is an information technology specialist based in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Huckstep is also a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. According to his LinkedIn profile, he volunteered with the church in Yekaterinburg, Russia from 1996-1998, overlapping with Simon Brewer’s mission in the very same city.48

In March 2017, Huckstep began work as Senior Director of Information Technology at Norbest, specifically located in Moroni, Utah (as per his LinkedIn profile). Recall that Simon Brewer had previously been CFO at Norbest, a large turkey company, from 2016-2018 — another area where these two men crossed over. As it turns out, the Moroni farm where Huckstep claims to have been based had an animal rights scandal just a couple of months prior to his arrival, and during Brewer’s tenure as CFO.49

Image source: LinkedIn

In November 2018, Huckstep began his position as Senior Director of IT at Predictive Technology Group, where he “led all information systems initiatives within the company, reporting to the CFO” — the CFO, of course, was Simon Brewer. He stayed there until July 2021, when he went to work for Operation Underground Railroad as VP of IT.

Anyone else?

Tauni Frampton

Image source: LinkedIn

Tauni Frampton is Operation Underground Railroad’s Director of Financial Operations, also based in Salt Lake City, Utah.50 Her accounting skills got a one-two thumbs up from Brewer and Carter.

Frampton attended the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah in 2013/2014 while working as an accountant at Backcountry. In January 2015, she went to work as an Assurance Senior at BDO USA — an accounting firm which just so happens to be a member of the Medical CBRN Defense Consortium (MCDC).51

Medical CBRN Defense Consortium Adds 18 New Member Organizations
Image source: CBRNE Central

CBRN stands for “Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear,” which are generally described as Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD).52 According to MCDC’s website:53

“The Medical CBRN Defense Consortium (MCDC) was formed in response to the [United States] Government’s expressed interest to establish an Other Transaction Agreement (OTA) with an eligible entity or group of entities, to include industry, academic, and not-for-profit partners, for advanced development efforts to support the Department of Defense’s (DoD) medical pharmaceutical and diagnostic requirements as related to enhancing the mission effectiveness of military personnel.”

Without getting too far into the weeds, Other Transaction Agreements (or Other Transaction Authorities — OTA) have been fingered as the mechanism through which the United States government commissioned and procured its various “countermeasures” against COVID-19, including genetic vaccines and experimental therapeutics.54, 55 Some have even suggested this mechanism allowed the government to completely bypass the authority of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), with so-called “approvals” being done entirely for show.

I don’t feel confident enough in my understanding of OTAs to comment more on that train of thought at this point, but I do feel it’s important to introduce the term to you nonetheless. As described in an overview document published by AcqNotes:56

“Other Transactions (OTs) are legally binding instruments that may be used to engage industry and academia for a broad range of research and prototyping activities. OTs are typically defined by what they are not: they are not standard procurement contracts, grants, or cooperative agreements. As such, they are generally not subject to the federal laws and regulations that apply to government procurement contracts.”

In any case, BDO USA’s fellow members in the Medical CBRN Defense Consortium include multiple companies that have previously been created with or led in some form by Dr. Robert Malone, including Alchem Laboratories and Inovio Pharmaceuticals — plus COVID-19 vaccine/therapeutic developers and manufacturers AstraZenecaEmergent BioSolutionsGinkgo BioworksICONJanssenMedicagoMerckNovavaxPfizer and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics.

Image source: LinkedIn

After her time with BDO USA ended in January 2019, Frampton went to work for Predictive Technology Group as Assistant Controller, and then Controller. She left Predictive in August 2021 for her position at Operation Underground Railroad.

What’s the deal?

Predictive Technology Group and Operation Underground Railroad are inexplicably tied together in a way that one might not have anticipated. In this short summary, I’ve highlighted six people who worked at both organizations back-to-back, without any clear explanation for the pattern.

The organizations don’t work in the same industry, and there is very little (if any) inherent crossover in their activities. In fact, the combination of “cutting-edge DNA products” and the tracking, processing and relocation of sex-trafficked children is just plain weird.

What am I missing?


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