York police dismantle alleged human trafficking ring

Police in York Region have laid more than 300 charges and arrested 31 people following an extensive investigation into human trafficking and organized crime.

Dubbed Project Convalesce, the investigation began in October 2018 after two female victims contacted police after attempting to escape a suspected pimp.

“The investigation led officers to identify a number of suspects believed to be involved in a large, multi-provincial, human trafficking ring run by organized crime. This group was also involved in frauds, drug trafficking and weapons offences,” reads a media release from police.

Last Thursday (Oct. 10), police warrants and search warrants were executed in more than 30 locations across the Greater Toronto Area and Quebec.

“Through the investigation, officers identified 12 victims and determined that more than 30 women who were involved in the sex trade were associated to this group of suspects. The majority of the women came from Quebec but had been moved to Ontario and across Canada for sex trade purposes,” reads the media release.

“Despite enduring violent assaults, sexual assaults, torture and other degrading circumstances, many victims are too fearful to come forward and often deny the events completely. Officers will be continuing the work to assist these victims and connect them with support.”

“York Regional Police will continue to offer assistance and support to the victims of violent human trafficking. I commend the officers involved in this investigation for their diligent work in dismantling this organized crime ring,” added York Regional Police Chief Eric Jolliffe.

The investigation included officers from the OPP, the Toronto Police Service, Peel Regional Police and The Équipe intégrée de lutte contre le proxénétisme (the Quebec Integrated Human Trafficking Task Force).

The media release notes that police in York Region are continuing their aggressive efforts in combating human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of women and underage girls.

“In many cases, victims are forced into the sex trade through violence, threats of violence, coercion and trickery,” the media release reads.

“York Regional Police is committed to investigating all incidents relating to human trafficking and providing assistance to victims. Investigators are willing to speak with anyone involved in the sex trade who may be looking for a way out or who may require assistance to escape these dangerous circumstances.”

For a full list of those charged, click HERE.

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