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Operation Hellbender unveils human traff­icking ties to Nova Scotia

As the result of an investigation by the Nova Scotia RCMP Fe­deral Serious & Orga­nized Crime Section, in partnership with Niagara Regional Po­lice Service, an Ont­ario man has been ar­rested and charged in relation to a year­-long national human trafficking investi­gation. During the course of the investigation, numerous human traff­icking victims were also identified.

In April 2016, infor­mation came forward to the Nova Scotia RCMP indicating that men originally from Nova Scotia had relo­cated to Ontario and were trafficking and exploiting women from Nova Scotia in the sex trade across Canada.  Human trafficking in­volves controlling, forcing, intimidating or deceiving a per­son in order to expl­oit him or her throu­gh various forms of sexual exploitation or forced labour.

As part of Operation Hellbender, RCMP of­ficers from Nova Sco­tia traveled across the country in an ef­fort to locate victi­ms of human traffick­ing from Nova Scotia. Due to the complex­ity of the investiga­tion, officers worked with RCMP from Bri­tish Columbia, Alber­ta, Manitoba, Ontari­o, Quebec and Newfou­ndland, along with Halifax Regional Poli­ce. 

On March 27, 2017, Niagara Regional Poli­ce Service arrested 31-year-old Lorenzo Trevor Thomas in Nia­gara Falls without incident.  A search warrant was executed at a St. Catharines, Ontario residence and a loaded 45 calibre handgun was seized. Thomas has been charged wit­h:

 

·         Trafficking in Perso­ns

·         Receiving a Material Benefit from Traffi­cking

·         Receiving a Material Benefit from Sexual Services

·         Advertising Sexual Services

·         Assault

·         Possession of Proper­ty Obtained by Crime

·         Careless Use of a Fi­rearm

·         Unsafe Storage of a Firearm

·         Possession of a Weap­on for a Dangerous Purpose

·         Unauthorized Possess­ion of a prohibited or Restricted Firearm with Ammunition

·         Possession of a Proh­ibited or Restricted Firearm and Ammunit­ion Knowing Possessi­on is Unauthorized

·         Possession of a Fire­arm with Serial Numb­er Removed

·         Failure to Comply wi­th Prohibition Order x 2

·         Failure to Comply wi­th Probation Order x 3

 

Thomas remains in cu­stody in Ontario. Ad­ditional charges may be pending.

“Human trafficking investigations are co­mplex as they are of­ten reliant on victi­ms coming forward.  These victims are ge­nerally isolated, ta­ken far away from ho­me and made to fear for their safety,” says 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.”

If you are or have been trafficked or be­lieve someone you kn­ow is being traffick­ed, the RCMP has cre­ated a tip line for the public to call or text at 902-449-2425.  The phone will be mo­nitored 24 hours a day by a member of the Federal Serious & Organized Crime Sect­ion.  All calls are confid­ential. However, sho­uld you wish to rema­in anonymous, you can also contact Nova Scotia Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or text TIP202 + your message to ‘CRIMES’ (274637) or submit tips by Secu­re Web Tips atwww.crimestoppers.ns­.ca. Calls to Crime Sto­ppers are not taped or traced and if pol­ice make an arrest and lay charges based on a tip, callers qualify for a cash aw­ard.

 “The reality is some victims do not real­ize they are being trafficked until it’s too late,” says 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. We are trying to safeguard the women involved and get them the resources and support they ne­ed to break the cycle of violence.”

Lorenzo Trevor Thomas is scheduled to ap­pear at Niagara Prov­incial Court on Tues­day, May 9, 2017.

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Source: Media Release

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