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10, including 2 teens, charged in southern Alberta human trafficking investigation

Click to play video: '10 people charged in human trafficking investigation in Lethbridge' 10 people charged in human trafficking investigation in Lethbridge
After a 15-year-old victim came forward, the Lethbridge Police Service began working in collaboration with the Calgary Police Service, RCMP, and ALERT in an investigation into human trafficking. As Eloise Therien explains, 10 people have been charged, and police say there could be more victims. – Aug 13, 2021

Ten people, ranging in age from 16 to 37, are facing several charges, including sexual assault and sexual interference, in relation to a sex trafficking investigation in Lethbridge.

According to police, the 10 individuals are believed to have sexually assaulted, exploited and trafficked a teenage girl, as well as sexually assaulted another young teen.

Read more: 15-year-old Edmonton girl rescued from human trafficking, 35 charges laid: ALERT

“During the course of the investigation, police first learned that a 15-year-old female had been selected, groomed and brought to specific locations where the offences took place,” Lethbridge police said.

Investigators believe the group arranged for transportation for the girl to various locations, and the girl “often didn’t know the details of these pre-arranged meetings.”

Police determined members of the group also “engaged in sexual activity with a 13-year-old victim.”

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“As our investigation continues, the numbers of victims, at this point, have not been confirmed,” police said.

According to LSP Acting Insp. Pete Christos, the investigation only began last week, after one of the victims had the courage to step forward and file a police report.

“They are in a safe place right now, they are being looked after,” Christos said of the victims. “They’ve got a lot of social supports in place”

LPS Chief Chahin Mehdiza said the investigaiton “will allow the victims to gain some measure of control over their lives, and also bring a halt to the despicable operations of those involved in these crimes.”

Eight of those charged have been arrested and are in custody, however, police said two “are still at large.”

Click to play video: 'How the court system re-traumatizes human trafficking victims' How the court system re-traumatizes human trafficking victims
How the court system re-traumatizes human trafficking victims – Jul 23, 2021

Additional charges are also pending against all 10 people, which include a doctor and businessman, police said. The names of the two youth charged are protected under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

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Fadi (Stawi) Chtewi, 20, is charged with:

  • Sexual interference
  • Invitation to sexual touching
  • Two counts of sexual assault
  • Sexual assault (party to the offence, meaning more than one person was involved in the assault)
  • Two counts of aggravated assault
  • Trafficking of someone under 18

Abdulla Mohammed, 19, is charged with:

  • Sexual interference
  • Invitation to sexual touching
  • Two counts of sexual assault
  • Sexual assault – party to offence with another person
  • Two counts of aggravated assault
  • Trafficking of someone under 18

Mohammad Neirabani, 22, is charged with:

  • Sexual interference
  • Invitation to sexual touching
  • Sexual assault
  • Sexual assault causing bodily harm
  • Sexual assault – party to offence with another person
  • Aggravated sexual assault
  • Trafficking of someone under 18
  • Child luring

Mohamoud Nirabani, 20, is changed with:

  • Sexual interference
  • Invitation to sexual touching
  • Two counts of sexual assault
  • Sexual assault – party to offence with another person
  • Two counts of aggravated assault
  • Trafficking of someone under 18

Ziyaad Noor, 37, is charged with:

  • Sexual interference
  • Invitation to sexual touching
  • Sexual assault
  • Sexual assault causing bodily harm
  • Sexual assault – party to offence with another person
  • Aggravated sexual assault
  • Trafficking of someone under 18

Mohammad Zafari, 20, is charged with:

  • Sexual interference
  • Invitation to sexual touching
  • Two counts of sexual assault
  • Sexual assault – party to offence with another person
  • Aggravated sexual assault
  • Trafficking of someone under 18

A 17-year-old male is charged with:

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  • Two counts of sexual assault
  • Sexual assault causing bodily harm
  • Two counts of sexual assault — party to the offence
  • Two counts of aggravated sexual assault
  • Trafficking of someone under 18
  • Child luring

A 16-year-old male is charged with:

  • Sexual assault
  • Sexual assault causing bodily harm
  • Sexual assault — party to the offence
  • Aggravated sexual assault
  • Trafficking of someone under 18

Those eight people were in custody Friday pending bail hearings, police said, with some appearing in court as early as Friday.

Warrants were issued for 22-year-old Khaled Alsaid, charged with sexual assault, invitation to sexual touching and sexual interference; as well as 26-year-old Meriton Krasniqi, who is facing charges of sexual interference, invitation to sexual touching, two counts of sexual assault, sexual assault causing bodily harm, being party to sexual assault, aggravated assault and trafficking of someone under 18.

On Monday, Lethbridge police issued a new news release saying Krasniqi and Alsaid had both turned themselves in and were in police custody.

Read more: Victim of human trafficking escapes, suspect arrested at Calgary hotel

All 10 people are believed to be from the Lethbridge and Calgary areas.

Anyone with information that could help the investigation is asked to contact Sgt. Bryan Whepley at 403-330-5167 or to contact Crime Stoppers.

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Lethbridge Mayor Chris Spearman said these are crimes many don’t think would happen in a place like Lethbridge.

“But the reality is that it is happening in Lethbridge and it’s one of the most unreported crimes, or under-reported crimes,” he said.

Spearman also commended the victims for coming forward, and hopes other victims in similar situations will feel safe reporting their experiences.

“Today we see the outcome of those courageous acts (that) will help prevent this crime from happening to others.”

Resources for victims, families

Anyone who believes they, or someone they know, is a victim of human trafficking is encouraged to reach out to the Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-833-900-1010, by email at hotline@ccteht.ca or submit a tip online.

The Lethbridge police also encourage anyone who is a victim of sexual assault to reach out to authorities by calling 403-328-4444, or if they’re in immediate danger, to call 911.

Read more: Fighting human trafficking ‘more urgent’ amid pandemic: country star Paul Brandt

The Chinook Child Advocacy Centre, which the Lethbridge Police Service is a part of, provides support to children, youth and families who have “been impacted by severe and complex abuse.” Its resources can be accessed through the centre’s website.

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More information, including an online course, on human trafficking can also be found through the Not In My City organization. Albertans can also find resources through ACT Alberta and CEASE Alberta.

Investigators from the Lethbridge Police Service, as well as the Calgary Police Service and Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team’s human trafficking counter exploitation team were involved the case.

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