Police make arrests in investigation into ‘multiple illegal bawdy houses’ in Mississauga
Published Wednesday, May 31, 2023 8:55AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, May 31, 2023 11:34AM EDT
Five people have been charged in connection with year-long human trafficking investigation in Mississauga that police say involved 13 victims who “came to Canada for a better life” but were instead coerced into working in the sex trade.
On Wednesday morning, police held a news conference to announce charges in the investigation, dubbed “Project Pacific," which was launched in April of 2022.
“The Peel Regional Police vice unit received a community complaint regarding an illegal bawdy house operating out of a condominium apartment in the city of Mississauga,” Det. David Laing told reporters at Peel police headquarters on Wednesday.
“Vice investigators identified a criminal network operating multiple illegal bawdy houses within the city of Mississauga. It was determined that these illegal bawdy houses were being openly advertised for sexual services on the internet.”
He said the suspects in the case exploited the vulnerabilities of the victims to “coerce and manipulate them into working and living within these illegal bawdy houses.”
“All 13 victims in this investigation are of Chinese descent and have varying immigration status,” Laing said. “One thing that all of these victims had in common was that they came to Canada for a better life, however 12 of these victims were recruited domestically.”
He added that the suspects exploited the fact that many of the victims were not legally allowed to work in Canada.
Five suspects were arrested in connection with the investigation in March and April after search warrants were executed at residences in Mississauga, Milton, and Markham.
Leung Ngai, a 59-year-old Milton resident, and Yuan Yuan Zhang, a 39-year-old Markham woman, were arrested on March 27.
Ngai was charged with exercising control, direction of influence, three counts of deriving material benefit from sexual services, communicating for the purpose for consideration for sexual service, three counts of trafficking a controlled substance, and two counts of possession for the purpose of trafficking.
Zhang was charged with six counts of communicating for the purpose for consideration for sexual service.
On April 5, Yu-Hobley Lan, a 63-year-old Mississauga resident, was arrested and later charged with exercising control, direction or influence, three counts of deriving material benefit from sexual service, and possession of a controlled substance.
Kwai Lin Tso, a 55-year-old woman who also resides in Mississauga, was also arrested on April 5 and now faces a number of charges, including communicating for the purpose for consideration for sexual service, and possession for the purpose of trafficking.
Police say a 71-year-old man was also arrested in connection with the case on April 14. Eamonn Handrahan, of Mississauga, was charged with one count of possession for the purpose of trafficking.
Canadian and U.S. currency, multiple cellphones and other electronic storage devices, and a quantity of drugs were seized during the investigation, according to police.
“Investigators anticipate additional charges to be laid against members of this criminal network for their financial gain and exploitation of the victims identified as we continue to gather and review the abundance of evidence seized throughout this investigation,” Laing said.
“As we believe there are additional victims and witnesses, we ask them to come forward.”
He noted that police are working with various community agencies to provide support to the victims in this case.
Police say this investigation illustrates exactly why it is important for members of the public to learn about the warning signs of human trafficking and report any suspicious activity to police.
“One member in our community recognized something that didn’t seem right… and made that phone call,” Laing told reporters. “A lengthy investigation commenced because of that one tip. It shows the impact that one community member can have to save victims.”