Wyoming Man Honored For Rescuing Hundreds Of Girls From Illegal Sex Tourism

Afton's Tyler Schwab has been honored by the Columbian government for helping more than 3,000 children, and rescuing hundreds, from American pedophiles. His Wyoming-based organization targets Americans who travel to Colombia to have sex with minors.

Jen Kocher

May 04, 20249 min read

Tyler Schwab poses with one of more than 3,000 sex trafficking survivors his nonprofit has helped.
Tyler Schwab poses with one of more than 3,000 sex trafficking survivors his nonprofit has helped. (Courtesy Tyler Schwab)

The 13-year-old girl clutched a folded piece of paper like a rosary.

On it, written in pen, was the phone number of a Wyoming man who a police officer said could help her. The girl, who asked to be called “Milagros” to protect her identity, had been swept up in a sex trafficking sting in Colombia and placed in a shelter.

Terrified, Milagros kept the note hidden, tucking it into her bra, under her armpit and between her toes for weeks until she finally worked up the courage to make a life-changing call to the unfamiliar number with a 307-area code.

Tyler Schwab, founder of Libertas International, was on the other end of that call and immediately went to her rescue. His Afton, Wyoming-based nonprofit helps execute recovery missions and support the immediate and long-term needs of sex trafficking survivors in South America.

That note is now framed and displayed in Schwab's office among the various memorabilia from other young sex trafficking survivors his group has helped rescue. It’s what keeps him going, the 33-year-old Afton native admitted.

Milagros had been violently abused by an American man along with three other young women.

With Schwab’s support, she was able to testify at her abuser’s trial in U.S. federal court last May. As a result, Michael Roberts, a 41-year-old teacher at an all-girls school in Texas, was charged with illicit sexual abuse of minors in Colombia and sentenced to seven years in U.S. federal prison.

Operation Archangel

Roberts is just one of many who have been arrested in Colombia as part of Operation Archangel. The international joint effort between Colombian law enforcement, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Libertas International specifically targets catching American sex tourists traveling to Colombia to have sex with minors.

Since launching last year, the operation has led to the arrests of more than a dozen men with 30 more open cases still pending.

Last week, a pharmacist from Miami, Florida, was arrested at the airport as he attempted to board to board a flight to Bogota, Colombia, to have sex with two girls ages 10 and 12. It was one of many such trips in which he abused trafficked children in exchange for $300,000 Colombian pesos (roughly $77) with the added promise of iPhones if the young victims didn’t cry.

Among the other notable arrests snagged by the operation was Orion Depp, a cryptocurrency influencer based in Los Angeles with 3 million followers online who used his massive platform to prey on young women.

There also was Jaymes Schulte, a famous MMA fighter who was indicted in November on suspicion of sex trafficking and distributing illegal videos involving victims as young as 13.

The Department of Homeland Security confirmed its participation in the operation but declined to provide specifics.

“This is an ongoing investigation and to preserve the case, information is limited,” said Yasmeen Pitts O'Keefe, Homeland Security Investigations acting deputy press secretary for the Southwest Team in an email to Cowboy State Daily.

Last August, Schwab was awarded the prestigious "Shield of DIPRO" by the Colombian government for his work combating sex trafficking.
Last August, Schwab was awarded the prestigious "Shield of DIPRO" by the Colombian government for his work combating sex trafficking. (Courtesy Tyler Schwab)

Cultural Problem

The rise of sex tourism in Colombian cities like Medellin, Bogotá, Cali and Cartagena has become a pressing issue, said Maj. Johan Aldana of the Colombian National Police who spoke to Cowboy State Daily from Colombia with Schwab translating.

And while prostitution is technically legal in Colombia, sex trafficking of minors under the age of 18 and other vulnerable individuals is not. Despite being illegal, many American men go to Colombia for the express purpose of having sex with minors.

The Associated Press reports that there were 1,259 cases of possible sexual exploitation of minors in Bogota, Colombia, alone in 2023, a 60% increase over the prior year. It’s become such a problem that on April 3, the mayor of Medellin imposed a temporary ban on prostitution in some neighborhoods following the bust of an American man who was found with two Colombian teenagers ages 12 and 13.

It's a cultural problem in his country, Aldana said, largely in part to the lasting legacy of notorious cartel leader and politician Pablo Escobar, who normalized narcotourism and prostitution. And though Escobar has been dead for more than 30 years, the lingering culture remains, as does Medellin’s reputation as the city of prostitution.

“Colombia is a very beautiful country for tourists, but over the span of time, we've had an influx of sex tourism, especially after the pandemic,” he said. “There were kids, especially young girls reporting that they had been abused by American tourists.”

Aldana said the situation is gradually improving because of the government's determined efforts to stop sex tourists who travel specifically for the purpose of engaging in sexual activities with minors. Additionally, Colombian citizens are becoming more and more outraged by the widespread exploitation of their children, including President Gustavo Petro.

In early April, Petro announced on X (formerly Twitter) that he would submit a formal request for the extradition of an Ohio man to Colombia. The 36-year-old man had been arrested after being found with two girls, ages 12 and 13, in his hotel room, but he managed to flee the country after being released on bail.

Even more disturbing is that many of these children are being exploited by family members for money, which he finds particularly bothersome, Saldana said.

“From a professional standpoint, I’ve worked organized crime and drugs, but sexual exploitation is such a different animal because they're real people,” Saldana said. “They're girls that have had these horrific lives and they're blameless victims who are being exploited.”

What also raises his hackles is that many of the American sex tourists are white-collar professionals with no criminal records at home who wield their power and money to take advantage of others, he said.

“They come here with their with their money and their white skin and believe that they can find the most vulnerable girls in our country and use them as sexual objects,” Saldana said. “Then they go back to their country to live a normal life while these girls have to live with the trauma.”

Schwab agreed.

“These people are monsters, but they are hidden monsters,” he said. “Many of these people are professional law enforcement, teachers, taxi drivers, pharmacists, ex-military, bankers, etc. They have no criminal background here in the U.S., but when they travel, they turn into the worst kind of monsters who inflict true horror on vulnerable kids around the world.”

Both Schwab and Saldana are encouraged that despite the enormous challenge to combat the problem, they are making incremental progress with every arrest.

Saldana additionally has a direct message for men who think they can come to Colombia to buy drugs and abuse children: “We will find you. It’s only a matter of time, and now, we have strategic partners in place.”

Life After Trafficking

Saldana had heard about Schwab and his nonprofit’s work helping survivors. The two met about four years ago and realized they could effectively work together.

Schwab’s nonprofit is able to rescue the victims with their immediate and after-care services including counseling, providing food and shelter and help with their long-term goals such as school, training programs or help setting up a business.

In many cases, survivors have nowhere to go after being rescued, which is why Schwab’s group plays such a vital role in taking care of them, Saldana said.

Since its inception in 2014, Libertas has participated in more than 90 arrests and impacted thousands of survivors in South America with offices in Colombia, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic and Wyoming. The nonprofit is funded solely by donations and grants.

Schwab said that once a survivor joins the Libertas family, she receives ongoing care and support. It is this strong bond with survivors that helps them feel secure enough to speak out against their abusers and reach out to other victims who may also be suffering from exploitation.

After being rescued from her sex trafficker, 13-year-old Milagros dreams of Wyoming, which she now associates with her freedom. Milagros made Tyler Schwab, founder of Libertas International, a bracelet to show her appreciation for all he has done to help her.
After being rescued from her sex trafficker, 13-year-old Milagros dreams of Wyoming, which she now associates with her freedom. Milagros made Tyler Schwab, founder of Libertas International, a bracelet to show her appreciation for all he has done to help her. (Courtesy Tyler Schwab)

Not Gold Diggers

Schwab himself was introduced to sex trafficking during his two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Dominican Republic. Initially, he thought that the large number of young women he saw with older men meant they were just gold diggers. However, after taking a human trafficking seminar at Utah State University following his mission, he had his eyes opened.

“It was an injustice I couldn’t ignore,” he said.

It prompted him to do something to combat the problem, so he formed his nonprofit in 2014, initially under the name Gifts of God that later morphed into Libertas International.

Last August, Schwab was awarded the prestigious "Shield of DIPRO" by the Colombian government for his work in this field. It is considered the highest honor an American can receive for their contributions.

Along with his efforts in South America, Schwab would eventually like to partner with other human trafficking nonprofits like Uprising in Sheridan as well as the University of Wyoming on programs designed to protect children.

And despite the nature of the work and the trauma inflicted on survivors, it’s the stories like Milagros’ that keep Schwab going.

Dreams Of Wyoming

Today, Milagros is 17 years old, in school studying to be a social worker and runs a small business from home. One day, she hopes to work for Libertas. With the help of the nonprofit, she was able to finish high school and, most importantly, put her abuser behind bars.

Though she’s never been to Wyoming, she associates her healing with the state and Schwab’s stories of its vast spaces and beauty. Her favorite television show is “The Last of Us,” which also had an episode that was filmed in Wyoming.

She loves the photos of the mountains Schwab shares on social media and recently had an artist design a tattoo depicting a buffalo skull with a blue butterfly sitting on top. The art piece is a metaphor representing her story and recovery.

“It’s her association with her healing and freedom,” Schwab said. “Wyoming’s become her safe place.”

Jen Kocher can be reached at jen@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Jen Kocher

Features, Investigative Reporter