31 arrested, 12 victims identified during investigation into human trafficking ring: YRP
Codi Wilson, CP24.com
Published Wednesday, October 16, 2019 10:09AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, October 16, 2019 5:34PM EDT
Hundreds of charges have been laid following a year-long investigation that York Regional Police said led the dismantling of a human trafficking and organized crime ring spanning across the Greater Toronto Area and Quebec.
The investigation dubbed “Project Convalesce,” was launched in October 2018 after police said two female victims of human trafficking contacted police for help.
Police said the women were at a hotel in Vaughan and were attempting to hide from the “kingpin” of a human trafficking ring, identified by police as Jonathan Nyangwila.
“Those two women were involved with Jonathan Nyangwila previously, they tried to escape him,” Insp. Thai Truong told reporters during a news conference on Wednesday morning.
He noted the women were so terrified to speak out that they were initially uncooperative with investigators.
Eventually information they obtained through the investigation led them to multiple other suspects alleged to be involved in a “large, multi-provincial human trafficking ring.”
In partnership with Ontario Provincial Police, the Toronto Police Service, Peel Regional Police, and the Quebec Integrated Human Trafficking Task Force, investigators said they identified various “figureheads,” “under bosses,” and “strikers” involved in the organization, including three of Nyangwila’s brothers.
Truong said that the group carried out various frauds, which included stealing the identity of real people and opening up credit cards and lines of credit.
He said the frauds “fueled” the human trafficking ring and the stolen money was used to pay for hotel rooms, food, and transporting the women to and from various locations.
At the culmination of the investigation earlier this month, Truong said search and arrest warrants were executed at more than 30 locations across the GTA and Quebec, including a condo building on Iceboat Terrace in downtown Toronto.
He said 31 suspects were arrested and officers were able to identify 12 victims of human trafficking. Over the past year, police said they were able to identify 45 different women involved in human trafficking that were associated with the group of suspects.
Many of the women, Truong said, originated from the Quebec area but were brought to Ontario.
“We have seen the horrific things that are happening to these women. They are controlled in every way imaginable,” he said.
“I can tell you that they are controlled emotionally, they are controlled through violence, through threats of violence. They are controlled through drugs and alcohol.”
Truong said the women, who range in age from 20 to mid-30s, would earn approximately $1,000 per day or more for their pimps.
“They are being forced to work while they are on their menstrual cycle,” he said. “From morning to night they are being told, directed to work even when they are not wanting to work.”
Resources are being provided to help the victims identified in the investigation and Truong said officers are still trying to connect with the other women believed to be associated with the group.
“We give them every resource possible to try and assist them. It is a long, grueling process,” he said. “It takes years of work and therapy.”
Truong noted that the investigation is still “active” and “ongoing.”
He said Canada-wide warrants have been issued for the arrest of multiple suspects still wanted in connection with the case.
Nyangwila, 28, is facing dozens of charges, including fraud, trafficking in persons, criminal harassment, uttering threats, and trafficking in property obtained by crime.