Written by By Jackie Cook, CNN
A Canadian man faces 25 charges including human trafficking, forcible confinement and living off the avails of prostitution after an investigation by police in Toronto that involved 147 female residents.
“These charges are being laid against the individuals who preyed on these women, who exploited their economic and social situations to trade their sexual services for money,” Detective Annie de Castilla, who heads the sex trade enforcement team for the Toronto Police Service told CTV.
“This was a mixture of young women, but also women of middle-age, older women who are in vulnerable economic positions,” she said.
The operation that resulted in these charges started with the investigation of a real estate agent named Berndt Roehl.
In March the 60-year-old was arrested after he posted advertisements on Craigslist for an escort agency. Police said he advertised on the site for nearly a year and made close to $1 million doing so.
After Roehl’s arrest, investigators noted that there were signs of human trafficking.
They visited the apartment where Roehl had rented the unit to interview the tenants and numerous service providers. By the time police executed a search warrant, they found 94 women and 14 men living in the apartment.
Many of the women were living without legal residency status, according to police.
Some reports are stating that 15 men lived in the unit at one time.
“These people were systematically exploiting this huge population of women and making thousands of dollars a month,” said De Castilla.
According to the police affidavit, it’s believed the prostitution network extended to Europe.
The officers found a for-sale sign advertising a hotel room that was advertised as “den of debauchery” and an “upstairs bungalow /kinky lair.”
On July 5, one of the women who lived in the apartment told police that they paid $1,500 a week for living expenses.
“The money is only for basic things such as clothes, food and childcare,” the woman said.