Ten men have been arrested for the alleged sexual exploitation of a 15-year-old girl in Alberta. But local law enforcement said there could be more victims as the investigation continues.
The accused, ranging from 15 to 37, allegedly arranged to transport the girl between Lethbridge and Calgary, where she was sexually assaulted at different locations.
They face a total of 60 charges, including sexual assault, child luring, trafficking persons under 18 and sexual assault causing bodily harm, with additional charges pending.
Lethbridge police also believe a 13-year-old was sexually assaulted and that there may still be additional victims who have not yet been identified.
The eight suspects in custody since Friday are awaiting their bail hearing while 26-year-old Merion Krasniqi and 22-year-old Khaled Alsaid turned themselves in on Monday.
CTV News reports that the eight people in custody first were Dr. Ziyaad Noor, 37; Mohammad Neirabani, 22; Mohammad Zafari, 20; Mahmoud Nirabani, 20; Fadi (Stawi) Chewi, 20; Abdulla Mohammed, 19; a 17-year-old male who cannot be named; and, a 16-year-old male who cannot be named.
Police confirmed former Lethbridge-based Dr. Ziyaad Noor, who now resides in Calgary, is the physician facing charges.
He practiced at the Royal Vista Revolution Medical Clinic in Calgary from April 2020 to October 2020. CTV News said It is not yet known if he continued to practice after October 2020.
In a statement to CTV News, clinic manager Tim Neufeld wrote, "The Campbell Clinic is disappointed to hear the news of the charges against Dr. Ziyaad Noor.
Dr. Noor previously practiced with the Campbell Clinic; however, he resigned in April 2020 and moved his practice to Calgary.
The clinic confirmed it has not been contacted by Police but would cooperate fully if or when that happens. "Our thoughts are with the victims in this case and will provide any assistance we can," wrote Neufeld.
The ongoing investigation continues to look into how widespread the crimes may have stretched and who else could have been involved.
"Human trafficking is happening in this city and other communities," said Lethbridge Police Chief Shahin Mehdizadeh. "These charges would not be possible without the assistance of the victims who had the courage to come forward and provide us with the vital information required to charge these individuals."
Police confirmed that the known victims are now safe and receiving social support.
The human trafficking investigation that began late last week involved members of the Lethbridge Police Service, Calgary Police Service, RCMP and the ALERT human trafficking counter exploitation unit.
"During the course of the investigation, police first learned that a 15-year-old female had been selected, groomed and brought to specific locations where the offences took place," said Inspector Pete Christos. "It is believed that these individuals involved in these crimes are all from Lethbridge and Calgary."
Upon hearing the allegations, Lethbridge Mayor Chris Spearman was shocked to listen to the news of human trafficking activity in his city. "It's a horror story," he said, "It's something that no parent wants to hear about that is happening in our city."
Lethbridge police urge anyone with information regarding the whereabouts of Krasniqi and Alsaid or additional details that could potentially assist the investigation in contacting local police. Anonymous tips may be submitted to Crime Stoppers.