An intense, more than one-year-long police investigation into a suspected human trafficking ring has resulted in the arrest of more than 31 people who are believed to have forced dozens of women and girls into the local sex trade.
York Regional Police announced the news on Wednesday, thanking the OPP, Toronto Police, Peel Regional Police and Quebec's Integrated Human Trafficking Task Force for their assistance in a multi-province investigation dubbed Project Convalesce.
More than 300 charges have been laid across so far as the result of this investigation, which saw officers execute search warrants in 34 locations across the GTA and Quebec last Thursday.
Roughly 100 of the charges faced by 31 suspects are related to human trafficking, according to police, while the others stem from fraud, drug trafficking and weapons offences.
After a year-long, multi-province, intensive investigation, @YRP officers and our partners put more than 30 dangerous criminals behind bars and laid hundreds of human trafficking and pimping-related charges as part of #ProjectConvalesce. More info: https://t.co/4QZNUKyv3p pic.twitter.com/FaprzEz0AQ— York Regional Police (@YRP) October 16, 2019
"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," reads a release from York Regional Police's Special Victims Unit - Human Trafficking Section.
"The majority of the women came from Quebec but had been moved to Ontario and across Canada for sex trade purposes."
Police say the investigation began in October of 2019 when two female victims came forward in an attempt to escape suspected pimp (and alleged kingpin of the organized crime operation) Jonathan Nyangwila.
"These victims endured violent assaults, sexual assaults and other degrading circumstances as they were controlled by these violent criminals," said York Regional Police deputy chief Brian Bigras during a press conference on Wednesday.
"They have all experienced violence and suffering." Inspector Thai Truong on the victims encountered during #ProjectConvalesce. Learn about this investigation at https://t.co/4QZNUKyv3p pic.twitter.com/Wls0TRzjmP— York Regional Police (@YRP) October 16, 2019
Police said that members of the crime group used violence to ensure compliance from more than 30 women and girls, and that officers working on the case discovered "horrific things" being done to them.
Twelve individual victims have been identified, but police believe at least 30 women involved in the sex trade — most of of them from Quebec — are associated with the trafficking suspects.
"Members of the York Regional Police Special Victims Unit - Human Trafficking Section are continuing their aggressive efforts in combating human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of women and underage girls," reads the YRP media release.
"In many cases, victims are forced into the sex trade through violence, threats of violence, coercion and trickery."
York Regional Police investigators are looking 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."
by Lauren O'Neil via blogTO