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A central “kingpin” and 30 others have been arrested, with 300 charges being laid in a major investigation into human trafficking and organized crime.
The investigation started when two Quebec women reached out to police in Ontario, with the investigation following suit over the next year.
Project Convalesce by the York Regional Police uncovered a network of criminals who used fraud to prop up a trafficking operation that spanned across several provinces, with police resources being used from four different police services across Ontario and Quebec.
York Regional Police Insp. Thai Truong told reporters that the investigation started when the two female victims revealed information about a suspected pimp, who police now believe to be the “kingpin” of the operation.
“We started uncovering and unravelling a large criminal network,” said Truong to CBC at the news conference in Aurora.
Police have since been able to identify 12 confirmed victims, with an additional 33 women who are believed to have been in contact with the group.
Victim’s ages range from 20 to mid-30s.
“We’re hoping they reach out to us. They may smile at you, they may not appear to be controlled or victimized. That is not true. We have seen the horrific things that are happening to these women,” said Truong of the victims.
Police believe that most of the women in the operation came from Quebec but had been relocated to Ontario and other provinces.
“These victims endured violent assaults, sexual assaults and other degrading circumstances as they were controlled by these violent criminals.”
Police went on to say that the investigation remains active, as police still seek several suspects.
“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,” York police said in a release on Tuesday.