Criminal gang organised removal and exploitation of thousands of homeless and vulnerable women and girls, say police
A gang of gay and bisexual men “generated thousands of dollars” by operating a high-profile human trafficking operation in Toronto, police say.
The Toronto police chief, Mark Saunders, said police had charged a man in connection with the alleged systematic and organized operation in the city for the removal and exploitation of homeless and vulnerable women and girls, as well as for crimes including aggravated assault, forcible confinement and possession of proceeds of crime.
A series of charges against two men and two women has been laid on 33-year-old Mustafa Kaikouna, a Toronto man who police said worked as a figurehead for the network.
LGBTQ people face attack, hate and abuse – on their bodies, in their homes Read more
Saunders said police believe the men set up a household for the women at addresses located across the city, including a house in Port Lands, near the Don River.
Kaikouna was arrested on Friday, police said, and a handful of victims were removed from the home for an examination.
The women and girls, Saunders said, were not from Canada. It is not clear whether they were the sex workers who were seized in the raid on Friday.
“We believe this is one of the largest human trafficking organizations in Toronto and to date we have discovered hundreds of women, we have rescued them from these houses of ill repute,” Saunders said.
“We have identified hundreds of victims … these are young girls we are talking about. Some of them are just in their mid teens. We are looking at hundreds of dollars of revenue generated by these people that were directed here.”
Saunders said police would not comment on the circumstances under which the young women were forced into prostitution but said they were kidnapped in what was described as a premeditated criminal tactic.
Police said they worked with the Young Homeles Alliance, a group that works with the “young homeless population and often exposed to extreme forms of violence, abuse and exploitation”.
The Toronto police service said in a press release they have filed additional charges against the other two men involved, including armed robbery.
Saunders said police would look at the possibility of adding additional charges against other alleged participants in the operations.
The police service said that at the time of the raid on Friday, the alleged victims were being brought to the Etobicoke residence by the owners of a local hotel, who subsequently contacted police. The owner of the hotel has been released.
Lydia Cacho-Red, chair of the Young Homeles Alliance, said that crime like this was not uncommon among homeless people.
“Homeless people face incredible levels of violence and trauma, and have previously been targets of gangs and other human traffickers. We are always pleased when we see justice for survivors of sexual violence,” she said.
“We continue to use our network to support survivors of sexual violence and keep them safe. We would encourage other survivors of crime and abuse to reach out for help if they feel they are in danger. We are here for them.”