A 31-year-old man originally from Nova Scotia has been arrested and charged in relation to a year-long investigation into human trafficking.
Nova Scotia RCMP say they were tipped off last spring about men, originally from Nova Scotia, who had relocated to Ontario and were trafficking and exploiting “numerous” women from Nova Scotia in the sex trade across Canada.
“Human trafficking investigations are complex as they are often reliant on victims coming forward,” said Supt. Alfredo Bangloy, Federal Policing Officer.
“We know there are other victims of human trafficking from Nova Scotia out there. Our goal is to find these women, get them to safety, and go after their traffickers.”
The investigation, titled “Operation Hellbender” sent Nova Scotia RCMP officers across Canada in an effort to locate the victims. Police say due to the “complexity” of the investigation, they worked with RCMP from British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Newfoundland, along with Halifax Regional Police.
As a result of the investigation, Niagara Regional Police arrested Lorenzo Trevor Thomas without incident on March 27. A search warrant was subsequently carried out at a home in St. Catherine’s Ontario where police seized a loaded 45 calibre handgun.
Thomas is facing 14 different charges including trafficking in persons, receiving a material benefit from sexual services and advertising sexual services. He is set to appear at Niagara Provincial Court on May 9.
RCMP are now asking for the public’s help in coming forward with information about other possible victims. They have set up a 24 hour tip line for the public to call or text at (902) 449-2425.
“The reality is some victims do not realise they are being trafficked until it’s too late,” said Cst. Natasha Jamieson, Nova Scotia RCMP Human Trafficking Coordinator.
“Anyone can be a victim of human trafficking and we want parents, loved ones and friends to better understand what to look for.”
Police say there are certain things to look for if you believe someone is being trafficked including:
- Constantly having to check in with some via cell phone with an urgency to call or text a response
- Being isolated from friends and family
- Lack of identification
- No proof of legitimate employment
- New tattoos (indicating branding or ownership)
- Unexplained gifts