|Jeonghwan Seo, 34, of Toronto and Mélanie Williams-Johnson, 20, of Montreal |
still wanted by police in connection with the alleged prostitution ring. (RCMP)
The operation involved young women (some, apparently, under 18 years old) from China and Korea being brought into Canada illegally and forced into prostitution, police said. Six people arrested in Toronto and Montreal are now facing charges.
"In the last year, we estimate at least 500 potential victims were identified," said RCMP Const. Erique Gasse.
"A good number of the women have already returned to their countries ... because there was a certain rotation. There are still women in other cells in Canada."
Arrests were made after 16 raids in Toronto and the greater Montreal area between March 27 and April 1.
Two clients were also arrested during raids on bawdy houses in Montreal. They have both been released on a promise to appear in court.
Smuggled into Canada
The victims came to Canada via land crossing or with illegitimate visas with the assistance of a criminal organization, the RCMP allege.
Once in the country, the women were forced to perform sex work in Montreal, Ottawa, Halifax, Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.
At a news conference today in St-Hubert, Que., RCMP said the "alleged ringleaders" were arrested in Toronto and will appear in court in Montreal on April 2.
The other accused, arrested in Montreal last week, have already appeared in court.
"It's not over yet — we're still doing the investigation," said Gasse. "We seized some computers and cellphones. We hope to find a list of all the victims and maybe a list of the clients."
The six people face charges including:
Gaining material benefit from sexual services.
Procuring a person under 18 years.
Advertising sexual services.
A 34-year-old man from Toronto, Jeonghwan Seo, and 20-year-old Montreal woman, Mélanie Williams-Johnson, are still wanted in connection with the investigation, dubbed Project Confidence.