Fraud

More Than 300 Charges Laid in Human Trafficking Investigation ‘Project Convalesce’

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Earlier this month, York Regional Police laid more than 300 charges and arrested 31 people as part of “Project Convalesce”, a multi-provincial human trafficking and organized crime investigation.  Approximately 100 of these charges were related directly to human trafficking.

WHAT IS PROJECT CONVALESCE?

In October 2018, two female victims of human trafficking from Quebec contacted police after attempting to escape a hotel in Vaughan.  York Regional Police began an investigation focused on suspected pimp, Jonathan Nyangwila (“Nyangwila”).  Investigators identified a number of suspects involved in various crimes of human trafficking, fraud, drug trafficking and weapons offences run by organized crime.

Nyangwila, a 28-year old from Markham, also known as Zoulou or Skulls, has been described as the “kingpin” at the top of a complicated and sophisticated criminal hierarchy.  Underneath Nyangwila were several “figureheads”, including three of his brothers.  A group of “underbosses” were positioned under the figureheads.  There were several also “strikers” positioned under the underbosses, whose responsibility it was to carry out high-risk frauds in banks and stores. 

It is alleged that the suspected criminal organization made fake identifications to purchase pre-paid credit cards that were then used to pay for expenses to run the human trafficking scheme such as hotel fees, travel and food.

Inspector Thai Truong stated:

Jonathan Nyangwila has been identified as the kingpin of the organization.  … All below him are individuals that have their own stable of girls.  But for the first time, we’re actually seeing girls being traded within, and girls being controlled by other individuals for the benefit of the organization.

Nyangwila is facing more than 30 charges relating to human trafficking, instructing the commission of an offence for a criminal organization, participating in the activities of a criminal organization, uttering threats, firearms possession, harassment and fraud.  He was arrested in July, yet continued to run his criminal operation from jail.

On October 10, 2019, following a full year of police investigation involving four police services from Ontario and one from Quebec, arrest and search warrants were executed in more than 30 locations across the Greater Toronto Area and in Quebec.

Investigating officers identified 12 victims and have information that there are 33 additional women involved in the sex trade and found to be associated with the suspects.  Most of the women involved were from Quebec and had been transported to Ontario and across Canada for the purpose of the sex trade.  The victims ranged in age from 20 to their mid-30s.  The women were found to perform sex acts seven days a week, earning approximately $1,000 a day, and passing on these monies to those that individuals that controlled them.

This investigation remains active and ongoing as police are hopefuly that the 33 additional women will come forward to seek assistance and support. 

York Region Deputy Chief Brian Bigras stated:

These victims endured violent assaults, sexual assaults and other degrading circumstances as they were controlled by these violent criminals.

WHAT IS HUMAN TRAFFICKING?

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, approximately 225,000 victims of trafficking have been identified worldwide between 2003 and 2016.

Human trafficking is a crime that exploits and manipulates women, children and men for the purposes of forced labour or sexual services.  Women are often the target of this crime. 

Those trafficking in humans often recruit and groom their victims by becoming a close friend or boyfriend.  Once traffickers lure their victims, they then coerce them into sex work, using psychological manipulation, threats, addiction, violence and isolation.

Police report that marginalized youth, Indigenous youth and youth experiencing homelessness are most often targeted.  Youth who struggle with low self-esteem, bullying, poverty, abuse and family issues are also pursued.

Traffickers often recruit girls online, at malls, high schools, libraries, group homes, bus stops, and parties at hotels.

Victims of this type of crime feel alone, isolated and trapped and have no way to return home.  They become entirely dependent on the trafficker to survive.

THE CRIMINAL OFFENCE OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING

Human trafficking is an offence found in the Criminal Code of Canada (“CC”) and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

The CC includes four indictable offences to address human trafficking, including:

  • Trafficking in persons (section 279.01);
  • Trafficking of a person under the age of eighteen years (section 279.011);
  • Receiving financial or material benefit knowing it results from the commission of an offence under sections 279.01 and 279.011 (section 279.02); and 
  • Withholding or destroying documents (section 279.03). 

There are many other offences contained in the CC that also apply to human trafficking cases including kidnapping, forcible confinement, uttering threats, extortion, assault, sexual assault, prostitution related offences and criminal organization offences.

If you have been charged with human trafficking or a related charge or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  We have a 24-hour phone service for your convenience.  We are available when you need us most.

Three Nova Scotia Men Face Charges in $3 Million International Lobster Theft

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

In a uniquely Canadian development, the RCMP recently busted three men who were running what the Mounties have called a “complex and sophisticated operation” involving more than three million dollars’ worth of lobster.

What Happened?

The RCMP began their investigation into the operation in July 2015 when allegations came to light that a man had defrauded a lobster company of $175,000 during the previous fishing season. As part of their investigation, the RCMP investigated allegations by a different lobster company that claimed that they had been defrauded of more than $500,000 in the same season.

In the subsequent fishing season, the RCMP investigated fraud allegations made by three other lobster companies, including a third Nova Scotia company that claimed they were defrauded of more than $1.7 million and another one in Taiwan which claimed that they were defrauded of more than $250,000.

The three men at the center of the allegations were ultimately arrested last week. The RCMP has not provided any further details about the investigation, noting that none of the allegations had been proven in court as of yet. The police did mention that all three men have “substantial reach and influence” on both the Canadian and international markets, also stating that

“[lobster fishing is] a multimillion-dollar industry. And where there’s opportunity, there’s also crimes of opportunity. It seems as though that is what transpired here.”

The Lobster Industry in Canada

The lobster business is the most lucrative of all the fishing industries in Canada, generating more than $2.03 billion in revenue in 2015. Approximately 30,000 “harvesters” are employed in 10,000 licensed enterprises across Quebec and the Maritimes, with the biggest fishery being in Nova Scotia, where there are more than 3,000 people involved in the industry.

The RCMP investigation was carried out with assistance from other organizations, including the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Canada Revenue Agency, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and the Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries.

Fraud and Theft

The three men are facing multiple counts of fraud over $5,000 and theft over $5,000. All have been released on conditions and are scheduled to appear in court on August 24th. We will continue to monitor developments in this case and will blog about updates as they become available.

Theft

Theft occurs when an individual takes or uses something that does not belong to them without the permission of the owner of that thing. Under the Criminal Code, theft falls into two categories: theft under $5,000, or, as in this case, theft over $5,000. Beyond the difference in value of items stolen, the difference between the two charges is the value of the stolen property and the potential punishment if the thief is found guilty. A conviction for theft under $5,000 can result in a maximum sentence of up to 2 years in prison, whereas a conviction for theft over $5,000 carries a maximum sentence of up to 10 years.

Fraud

Under the Criminal Code fraud occurs when a person “by deceit, falsehood or other fraudulent means…defrauds the public or any person…of any property, money or valuable security or any service.” Like theft, fraud is divided into two different charges: fraud under $5,000 and fraud over $5,000. The maximum sentence for fraud over $5,000 is 14 years in prison.

If you have been charged with fraud, theft, or any related offense, contact the Oshawa theft lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905 404 1947. We will take the necessary steps to protect your best interests, both in the short and long term. We offer a free initial consultation to all prospective clients.

Police Lay Witchcraft Charges Against Toronto Man

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

A Toronto man was charged with witchcraft, extortion, and fraud over $5000 after he allegedly convinced a customer to pay him more than $100,000 to remove an “evil spirit” from a family member.

Murali Muthyalu (Muthyalu), who calls himself “Master Raghav”, advertised psychic readings for $20 by placing business cards in mailboxes and handing out cards in shopping malls between February and March 2017. Muthyalu, 47, is originally from India and has been in Canada for less than one year.

A 44-year old Brampton man responded to the marketing and visited Muthyalu at the Sri Gavatri Astrological Center, where he was told that his sick daughter was carrying an evil spirit. Muthyalu convinced the man that the spirit could be removed. He performed a series of rituals, telling the man each time that it was not working, and that he had to pay for an additional ritual. The price of each additional ceremony escalated until the man spent a total of $101,000.

When the man realized that his daughter was not getting better, he realized that Muthyalu was a fraud and called the police.

Witchcraft under the Criminal Code of Canada

It often comes as a surprise to many that witchcraft is an offense under the Criminal Code. Indeed, while the law is archaic, “pretending to practice witchcraft” remains on the books and is still enforced.

In 2012, another Toronto man was charged with pretending to practice witchcraft after he convinced a woman that she was cursed and that he could remove the alleged curse for $14,000. Charges were also brought against two other people in 2010 and in 2009 for extorting large sums of money from individuals who believed that these “psychic healers” would be able to rid them of a curse or a possessed spirit.

Under the Criminal Code, pretending to practice witchcraft includes anyone who “pretends to exercise or to use any kind of witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment or conjuration”, or anyone who “undertakes, for consideration, to tell fortunes”. Ostensibly, this covers anyone who practices as a psychic (even those individuals who do not set out to defraud their customers); however, it may be possible to defend such charges if a person genuinely believes that they possess psychic abilities.

If you have been charged with fraud or any related offense, contact the Oshawa fraud lawyers at Affleck & Barrison online or at 905 404 1947. We will take the steps necessary to protect your best interests, both immediately and in the long-term. We offer a free initial consultation to all prospective clients.