WASHINGTON — In February 1987, an anonymous phone tip was called into the Tallahassee police department reporting that six children were dirty, hungry, and acting like animals in the custody of two well-dressed men in a Tallahassee, Florida park. That phone call would kick off the Finders scandal: a series of events and multiple investigations even more bizarre than the initial report.
The trail would ultimately lead to allegations of a cult involved in ritual abuse, an international child-trafficking ring, evidence of child abuse confirmed and later denied, and ties with the CIA, which was alleged to have interfered in the case. No one was ever prosecuted in the wake of the initial 1987 investigation or a 1993 inquiry into the allegations of CIA involvement: official denials were maintained, and authorities stated that no evidence of criminal activity was ever found. However, documents that have emerged over time beg significant questions as to the validity of the official narrative.
In contrast with other historical human trafficking rings covered in the independent press, including those I have previously discussed, the Finders scandal presents as something of a phantom. This is in consequence of the lack of adult victims who have come forward, an absence of hard evidence viewable to the public, and an absence of extensive trials or convictions. Further impeding the willingness of most journalists to cover such a story were claims of ritualistic abuse that were hyped by corporate media at the time of the incident, as well as allegations of a CIA-led coverup that were less widely recognized by the legacy press.
The story is further complicated by the fact that it takes place in three basic stages: the initial 1987 investigation spread across multiple states and law enforcement agencies; a subsequent 1993 inquiry into allegations of a CIA coverup and interference in the 1987 investigation; and the emergence of Customs Service documents detailing new aspects of initial searches of Finders properties which was followed by the publication of hundreds of documents from both investigations to the FBI vault in 2019.
By initially sensationalizing the issue via the framing of the Finders as a satanic cult, the media profited from immediate shock value while permitting this very sensationalism to become the premise for dismissing other aspects of the story and Finders ties to the CIA to remain unexplored.