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
- 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 at www.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.
Note to media: A fact sheet on signs someone may be trafficked and who to call to report is attached.