Fact Check

RUMOR: Navy SEALs Save Child Sex Slaves on a Crude Oil Tanker in San Francisco?

The purported rescue involved hundreds of enslaved children who were held captive in the hold of a crude oil tanker that was berthed in the Bay Area.

Published Jun 27, 2023

Image Via EMPPhotography
In June 2023, U.S. Navy SEALs saved hundreds of child sex slaves who were being held on an oil tanker or barge in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Why no rating on this article? This is a popular topic but has not yet been rated by Snopes for reasons we'll outline below. Have more information on this topic? Send us a tip.

In late June 2023, we received reader mail that asked about a headline from the website Real Raw News that read, "Navy SEALs Save Children From Child Sex Slavers."

The article, which was published on June 27, said that on June 25 (a Sunday), hundreds of children were rescued from the hold of a crude oil tanker known as the Dubai Brilliance, which at the time was purportedly docked in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Importantly, the "About Us" page on Real Raw News says that its content is intended "for informational and educational and entertainment purposes," and that its stories contain humor, parody, and satire. In other words, we initially had no reason to believe any part of this story was true.

At the same time, Israeli News Live, a website that does not describe its content as satirical, published a video that described a very similar story on the day before Real Raw News put out its article, according to timestamp data.

This might have been the first time we've reported on an apparently satirical article that originated in a non-satirical form. Usually, it's the other way around.

Still, we initially found no compelling evidence, additional reporting, or identifying information that would help to confirm the details of this story as being true. Also, as we've noted below, this rumor wasn't the first time we've reported on yet-unverified tales of trafficked children being rescued by heroic forces.

In this article, we'll take a look at both the Real Raw News article and the Israeli News Live video. 

Real Raw News Article

The beginning of the story on Real Raw News read as follows (we discuss the bolded words later):

United States Navy SEALs on Sunday rescued "hundreds" of enslaved children from the hold of a crude oil tanker berthed in San Francisco Bay, a source in General Eric M. Smith's office told Real Raw News.

If all information is correct, the operation marks the second time in two years White Hats have freed captive children from either cargo ships or tankers near the California coast, a waypoint in the child sex trade industry. Real Raw News reported on a similar incident in November 2021.

On Saturday afternoon, an unknown tipster supplied the general's office with near-real-time images of emaciated children standing shoulder-to-shoulder in what appeared to be the belly of a commercial tanker. One macabre picture showed barely clothed kids packed together like a tin of sardines. Some children had visible wounds on their arms, legs, faces, or torsos.

Gen. Smith's experts validated the images' metadata and identified the vessel as the Dubai Brilliance, a Marshall Islands-flagged supertanker anchored in San Francisco Bay between San Fran and Alameda. The 63,000-ton vessel was built in 2011 by Brilliance Maritime Inc., based in the United Arab Emirates. It can hold 20 million gallons of crude or, apparently, an unquantifiable number of children.

We bolded parts of the above paragraphs to note three specific references. First, according to the U.S. Marine Corps website, Gen. Eric M. Smith is a real person and "is currently serving as the 36th Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps."

As for the "similar incident" from November 2021 mentioned in the article, we previously concluded that the unrelated smuggled children story had also originated on Real Raw News.

The third bolded item was that the ship purportedly involved was the Dubai Brilliance, a real crude oil tanker owned by Brilliance Maritime Inc. and that, as of this writing, was docked in the Bay Area, according to VesselFinder.com.

Note: In a separate but related matter, we also published a "False" rating for another rumor that said trafficked children and dead bodies were found on Evergreen's Ever Given, the cargo ship that famously became stuck in the Suez Canal in March 2021.

Israeli News Live Video

According to timestamp information, on the day before Real Raw News posted its article, the website Israeli News Live published a video titled, "San Francisco Bay Child Sex Trade Busted."

Israeli News Live describes itself on its "About Us" page as an "independent news source" that examines world events "from a prophetic outlook," saying that it looks to cover stories that "clearly are fulfilling Biblical prophecy."

In the video, Israeli News Live reporter Steven Ben-Nun began by saying, "Very fascinating story that I found out about today. Something that I don't know when it'll actually make news, whether it's going to make mainstream media or if it'll end up making independent media as well."

Ben-Nun went on to describe "an amazing story from a minister friend" who lives in California. We have transcribed the main portion of the video below:

I got to hear about an amazing story from a minister friend of mine that lives out there. Today, in fact, he was sharing with me the details of how that, just in passing, there was a particular [U.S. Army] Green Beret that goes to his church, and they were discussing, or the issue came up about sex slavery, kids that are being used in sex slavery. And, he mentioned that there were certain barges in a certain body of water there, and if I remember right, it is off the coast of California. That's why I was actually zoomed into the San Francisco Bay there. That there were certain barges there that were housing sex slaves on that barge.

Well, it just so happened [that] that was shared with him a little while back, and yesterday, he had shared that information with a good friend of his that was a high-ranking Navy SEAL.

Well, this morning he gets a phone call, because remind you, that was yesterday. This morning he gets a phone call. And, he was actually in the middle of another, I don't know if it was a Skype call or whatever it was, but his phone kept ringing and ringing and ringing. So finally, he gets off of there. He takes the call. It was the high-ranking officer of the Navy SEALs there, that was on the other line there, and he said, "I want to thank you on the behalf of 807 children that we rescued at 0:30 this morning, very early, right before daylight, from the barge, that you spoke about, that you shared with me, there in the bay."

And he says to him, he says, "Are you pulling my chain?" He said, "No sir." He said, "I never would." He said, "But I only told you about this yesterday." He said, "In 24 hours, a story that I'd heard about, you know, months ago, and you're telling me that you organized a rescue event and went and investigated this?" And he said, "You're talking about the best of the best in the world." And he said, "I took it very serious what you said." He said, "I assembled a team." He said, "We went to the location that you told us about. We did find the barges. There were several barges there, and on one of those barges, we found 807 children. They were being used as sex slaves," he said. "And yes, we were able to rescue them."

After the above remarks, Ben-Nun ended his video by saying that he would not reveal any further identifying details regarding his sources:

So, I cannot disclose the information about who this come[s] from, but I will tell you he is a very reliable, trusted friend and trusted source. Already, I'm very familiar with the high-ranking Navy SEAL officer that he knows, and again, another very trusted, and I have vetted that information up, this information here, but I've vetted his information before. His information has always been spot on that he has shared with me. And, so I can certainly believe that indeed they did rescue 807 children early this morning that were being very horribly violated. So we want to just, you know, thank God for that and thank God for you for listening and being supportive of this broadcast. We hope this is a blessing to you and a bit of good news in a world that is just swamped by bad. 

We reached out to Ben-Nun with questions, as well as the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Brilliance Maritime Inc., but received no responses.

As of this writing, we have been unable to uncover enough evidence to provide any specific fact-check rating. As a service to our readers, we have simply presented the known facts at this time.


"About Us." Israeli News Live, https://israelinewslive.org/about-us/.

Ben-Nun, Steven. "San Francisco Bay Child Sex Trade Busted." iConnectFX.com, Israeli News Live, 26 June 2023, https://iconnectfx.com/view/acce32df-2314-ee11-996d-0050568299de.

"DUBAI BRILLIANCE, Crude Oil Tanker." VesselFinder.com, 27 June 2023, https://www.vesselfinder.com/vessels/details/9422550.

"GEN. ERIC M. SMITH." Marines.mil, https://www.marines.mil/CM/Biographies/Bio-Display/Article/2478637/gen-eric-m-smith/.

Ibrahim, Nur. "Did Navy SEALs Raid Cargo Ship Full of Smuggled Children?" Snopes, 10 Nov. 2021, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/navy-seals-ship-smuggled-children/.

Liles, Jordan. "Did US Navy SEALs Rescue Trafficked Children from Ever Given Ship?" Snopes, 3 Apr. 2021, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/trafficked-children-suez-ship/.

"Navy SEALs Save Children From Child Sex Slavers." Real Raw News, 27 June 2023, https://realrawnews.com/2023/06/navy-seals-save-children-from-child-sex-slavers/.

Jordan Liles is a Senior Reporter who has been with Snopes since 2016.