More than 300 charges laid, 'kingpin' identified in multi-provincial human trafficking investigation
TORONTO – Police have identified the “kingpin” in a multi-provincial human trafficking and organized crime investigation, which led to more than 300 charges being laid and 31 people taken into custody.
The investigation, dubbed Project Convalesce, began in October of last year when two female victims got into contact with police while trying to escape an alleged pimp.
“How it came to light with York Regional Police was that there were two females that were engaged in the sex trade. At the time, they were in Vaughan and they were coming to the end of their rope and they had called York Regional Police for assistance while they were at a hotel in Vaughan,” Insp. Thai Truong told reporters at a news conference in Aurora, Ont. on Wednesday morning.
“At the time when officers arrived, they weren’t fully cooperative and they weren’t fully telling us what was going on – we had bits and pieces of what was happening. Our human trafficking investigators became engaged subsequently following that interaction and in the following days to come we had cooperation from one of the females.”
Truong said investigators then learned that the two women, who were from Quebec but had been relocated to Ontario, were attempting to flee the “primary target” of the investigation.
Jonathan Nyangwila, identified as the “kingpin” in Project Convalesce by police, had been “associated and involved with numerous women involved in the sex trade.”
“He was quickly identified as a pimp,” Truong said while pointing to Nyangwila’s image displayed on a board beside the podium at the news conference.
“We identified him as a human trafficker and the investigation commenced at that point where we started uncovering and unravelling a large criminal network.”
The two women who contacted police were working for Nyangwila, but were trying to leave and make their own money, Truong said.
“He was engaged with them, they were working for him, they tried to leave and tried to make their own money, at which point he tracked them down and tried to make sure that didn’t happen – that is a common thing that we are seeing with human trafficking, we are seeing a lot of girls that will try to leave their pimp and try to evade the violence and they get found, they get beaten, they get assaulted as a result of getting found.”
‘Everyone else took direction from him’
Nyangwila was arrested by police in the Greater Toronto Area in July of this year.
But, Truong said that while he was in jail, he continued to “control and direct individuals” – something that happens “quite regularly” in human trafficking cases.
“You’re not confined for 24 hours a day with no contact, he has contact while in jail. Through those contacts and opportunities he can still give direction, he can still give orders.”
Under Nyangwila, police said other suspected human traffickers had their own group of girls.