Three people face 43 human trafficking and prostitution-related charges and police believe there may be more victims.
Police were called to a Bay St. hotel by security on February 27, after they learned that a 14-year-old girl was being held against her will in a room.
“The girl had earned a large amount of money, but was required to turn it over to the accused,” said Sex Crimes Inspector Joanne Beaven-Desjardins at a news conference at police headquarters on March 31. “She attempted to leave, but was held against her will. The incident escalated and hotel security was called. The girl asked for assistance and police were notified.”
Sage Finestone, 21; Nicholas Faria, 19; and 18-year-old Natasha Robitaille were arrested and charged.
Beaven-Desjardins said that, after a news release was issued surrounding this alleged incident, a 16-year-old girl contacted police with allegations that she was enticed by the trio to the sex-trade industry.
“The three accused had the girl provide sexual services over two days and she was forced to turn over money to them,” said Beaven-Desjardins. “She escaped and they messaged her, threatening to harm her if she didn’t return.”
It’s alleged both victims were befriended by Robitaille, who attended school in Orillia and still has links to that community. Finestone and Faria went to school in Toronto.
Beaven-Desjardins explained the ruse the accused use to lure victims and the tactics they employ to control them.
“It’s alleged they prey on vulnerable individuals, lure them away from friends and family and control their every move,” she said. “They (the victims) are led to believe they are entering a world of glamour and richness which, in reality, is a world of severe abuse. They force them into prostitution and control every part of their lives. They move them from hotel to hotel to make them dependent and confused about their surroundings to avoid detection. When the victims want to leave, they hold them against their will with threats of violence.”
Police believe there may be more victims.
Beaven-Desjardins promised the victims they will receive the support they require whether or not they choose to proceed with a criminal investigation.
“Our main concern is the victims,” she said.
Individuals can contact Sex Crimes at 416-808-7474, Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-TIPS (8477), online at 222tips.com, text TOR and your message to CRIMES (274637), or Leave A Tip on Facebook. Download the free Crime Stoppers Mobile App on iTunes, Google Play or Blackberry App World.
Michele Anderson, a human trafficking specialist with Covenant House, and Native Women’s Association of Canada president Dawn Harvard also spoke at the press conference.
“Strong partnerships with these organizations allow us to co-ordinate an approach that addresses victim needs as well as judicial requirements,” Beaven-Desjardins added.
Anderson said these victims often lose their formative teenage years because of the control exerted by their pimp/trafficker.
“They are shattered, they are absolutely destroyed. They have no contact with their family, they’re alienated from their family. They are in fear for their lives,” Anderson said, of human trafficking victims when they first seek help. “They really, really struggle to reintegrate into mainstream life.”
Harvard said the sex trade workers are often recruited from poor aboriginal communities.
"The lure of a better life is very attractive. They come to the cities, the promise of somebody who says 'You can sleep on my couch. I'll help you get a job, I'll help you go back to school' and then a few weeks later the families are coming forward because that girl is gone," Harvard said.