Thursday, December 3, 1998

Henry Stancu

p. B1.

39 held after probe into Thai sex ring

Raids, charges end year-long investigation

Toronto police arrested 39 people following prostitution-linked raids at 10 homes and businesses throughout the Toronto area last night.

Project Trade, a year-long investigation into a prostitution ring in which women were brought from Thailand to work in bawdy houses, massage parlours and hotels, wrapped up after last night's raids by officers including those from Toronto police and Immigration Canada.

"Project Trade has targeted a group of people who were bringing Thai females into the city. These females are sold to 500 customers before they can earn any money on their own," said Detective Peter Yuen of the Toronto force's special (Asian) task force.

Yuen said one woman could surpass that quota in about eight weeks. He said the women, aged 18 to 25, were sold to their owners for $16,000 to $25,000 each, and that about 95 per cent came to Canada illegally, knowing exactly what they were getting into.

Organizers in the ring would send agents to Thailand, where they would seek out women willing to come to Canada to work as prostitutes and the women would arrive in Toronto on visitors' visas.

39 arrests end investigation

They would then be provided with accommodation and a place to ply their trade, police said.

The raids, which began at 8 p.m. were conducted at locations in Toronto's west end, Scarborough, North York and Richmond Hill. They were conducted by officers from the Toronto police service, York and Peel Region police, the Ontario Provincial Police, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Immigration Canada. One location included the Fairbank Hotel at Dufferin St. and Eglinton Ave. W.

"This was a very sophisticated operation, and we targeted the agents behind it. I think we broke the back of this organization," Detective Sergeant Dave Perry said.

"This is a big, big, money business," said one officer involved in the raids.

Unable to co-ordinate transportation with paddy wagons, police transported those arrested to 55 Division station, on Coxwell Ave. in Toronto's east end, in the back of unmarked cars and police vans.

A total of 192 prostitution-related charges were laid, including keeping a common bawdy house, procuring for the purpose of prostitution, forcible confinement and forging documents.

Most of those arrested covered their heads with coats to avoid being photographed through the back windows of cars. The arrests were the final stage of Project Trade, in which similar arrests were made last winter.

One of the women arrested then was deported shortly after, only to be arrested again last night, police said.

The suspects were to appear at College Park court today.

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Created: December 4, 1998
Last modified: December 4, 1998

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