MONTREAL – Seven members of an Asia-based organized crime syndicate have been arrested for exploiting more than 500 women mostly from China and Korea in a prostitution ring that spanned Canada, authorities said Thursday.
The ring operated in Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver, authorities said after a year-long investigation.
Two suspects — Daegun Chun, 46, and Yong Li, 31 — appeared in court Thursday to face charges related to the alleged smuggling of women into Canada for the purposes of trafficking them in prostitution.
So far, those arrested have been charged with procuring minors, advertising sexual services and gaining a material benefit from sexual services. More serious charges such as gangsterism and human trafficking could be coming, authorities said.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police said the alleged victims received assistance from a criminal organization to enter the country under false pretenses before being exploited and made to work under appalling conditions. After several weeks or months, they were returned home.
Charged earlier this week were Le Yu, 38, and Anyang Cui, 26, both of Montreal, and Kai Chen, 37, and Nan Wu, 33, from suburban Notre-Dame-de-L'Ile-Perrot.
Jeonghwan Seo, 34, of Toronto, was arrested late Wednesday.
Police say that leaves Melanie Williams-Johnson, 20, of Montreal, as the last suspect still on the run.
Police Constable Erique Gasse said 500 is a conservative estimate for the number of alleged victims and that the police probe began in January 2014.