14
Jan
08

Trio charged with human trafficking

odd Staff reporTER

On Thursday afternoon, a woman from Eastern Europe stumbled into the police station at Dundas St. W. and University Ave. She said she was a sex slave.

The next day, police raided several addresses and arrested six suspects.

Three of them now face a slew of charges in what is believed to be an international human trafficking ring involving a dizzying array of victims, suspects and countries.

“There is one victim that we have,” Staff Sgt. Deb Abbott declared.

“If you understand human trafficking, you’ll know they have complete control over them. They are held.”

Abbott wouldn’t say how this victim managed to escape her captors.

The victim told police that she responded to an advertisement on the Internet that offered her work as a model in Canada. But when she arrived she was thrown into prostitution.

Abbott said the victims are from Eastern European countries.

“We have a belief that it’s a general area,” she said. “It’s an international case, and the investigation is ongoing. It’s going to take quite a bit of time. We have to maintain the integrity of the investigation.”

The women were bought into the country using fake passports, police said. Once they arrived, the victims were forcibly confined and made to work as escorts for the “ringleaders” of the operation.

Police said one of the houses they raided was in North York, near Steeles Ave. and Bathurst St. They arrested two suspects who have been charged at Thornhill addresses.

It is unknown how many women may be involved.

Police didn’t wish to comment on whether the victimized women would receive amnesty in Canada.

Abbott said they are taking this complex case one step at a time.

“She is a victim and a witness to a criminal investigation,” Abbott said.

“That’s it. This is a cross-border investigation with multiple agencies, multiple locations and multiple victims and witnesses who are reluctant to share for fear of reprisal. It makes it difficult to investigate.”

Artur Boris Tomchin, 35, of Toronto, Andrei Khazarov, 39, of Thornhill and Daniel Leshinsky, 38, of Thornhill face 10 charges related to human trafficking, including the trafficking of persons, forcible confinement and procuring a person to become a prostitute.

Three others remain in custody, and police are seeking many more suspects.

In 2006, the Toronto police sex crimes unit estimated between 600 and 800 people a year are brought into Canada illegally and pushed into prostitution, domestic servitude and forced labour after being promised a better life.

Human trafficking is considered a worldwide, multi-billion-dollar industry.

In November 2007, eight people were arrested, four of whom were from Ontario, for engaging in human trafficking across the U.S. border.

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