British Columbia

Victim lays out emotional toll of pimp's abuse in underage prostitution ring

Michael Bannon has pleaded guilty to 22 charges connected to underage prostitution ring

February 07, 2018

A sentencing hearing for Michael Bannon continues Thursday in B.C. Supreme Court. (Peter Scobie/CBC)

After systematically detailing the emotional and physical pain he's suffered from being prostituted as a 16-year-old, the slim young man in the sharp grey suit turned to the man responsible and said something unexpected.

"I hope that when Matt [a pseudonym for Michael Bannon] gets out, he's able to get help," the young man told a sentencing hearing in Vancouver on Wednesday.

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"He should know that he has potential, just like everyone else does."

Bannon, 35, pleaded guilty last week to 22 charges related to an extensive underage prostitution ring he operated out of Vancouver hotel rooms and apartments for a few months in 2014 and 2015.

Defence and Crown lawyers told a B.C. Supreme Court justice Wednesday that Bannon should serve 14 years behind bars.

Prosecutor Geordie Proulx laid out the evidence against him, including the statements of nine victims who were all teenagers when they were pulled into Bannon's orbit, plied with drugs and promises of money. They were all vulnerable young people, many living in group homes, Proulx said.

The youngest was a 14-year-old transgender girl. Another victim died of a drug overdose before the case could be heard.

The result of this abuse was "a very lucrative criminal enterprise," Proulx said.

Bannon usually charged $260 an hour for a date. (Peter Scobie/CBC)

The only male victim included in the case against Bannon is a young man known as C.H. in court proceedings, and he gave a victim impact statement Wednesday with an emotional support dog at his side.

He told the court about attempting suicide, self-medicating with drugs and struggling with depression and anxiety after his two months working for Bannon.

"I used to trust people, but now I don't trust anybody," C.H. said.

Now a certified paramedic, C.H. says he's dealt with his addiction issues and gets some satisfaction knowing that Bannon will face justice.

Huge troves of evidence

The file of evidence against Bannon was "voluminous," Proulx told the judge. It included 9,000 pages of information gleaned from three phones and two laptops, 777 pages of communications through Facebook and hundreds more pages of phone records, online ads and other data.

Bannon has what Proulx described as "an extensive criminal history," including 31 previous convictions dating back to 1998, when he was 15. His most recent prison term was 56 months for the sexual assault of a 17-year-old and income tax fraud.

He was out on parole on those crimes in the summer of 2014 when he roped the first victim into his prostitution scheme, the court heard, but was soon back behind bars after breaching the terms of his release.

Just days after his full release from prison in March 2015, he was back at work, using a cellphone to post ads online.

Michael Bannon contacted many of his victims through Facebook. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

He often used Facebook to make unsolicited contact with girls he'd noticed, asking them their age, if they had a curfew, whether they were open-minded, and if they wanted to make money, Proulx said.

"Just think how a cute chick like you could make 1G a night," Bannon told one 16-year-old target, according to a message read out to the court.

That's how he reached out to one of the victims, known as S.L. in court proceedings.

'It's hard to remember who I was'

She was 17 years old when she left her home in Surrey on March 26, 2015, wearing just a thin green dress. She thought she was heading out to a modelling gig, the court heard.

Instead, she would spend three straight days servicing johns inside a Vancouver hotel room. At one point, she was unconscious for as long as five hours after taking some oxycodone that a drug dealer had used to pay for sex.

By the time she returned home, she'd had more than 25 sexual encounters. Her parents had reported her missing, and police intercepted her taxi ride home, sending her to hospital immediately

She was hungry, exhausted, sore and so dehydrated that an IV had to be placed between her toes, the court heard.

"It is hard to remember who I was before this happened to me," S.L. said in a victim impact statement read to the court.

Bannon has pleaded guilty to charges, including procuring underage people into prostitution, sexual interference and benefiting from the sexual services of someone under 18.

The sentencing hearing continues Thursday morning.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bethany Lindsay
Journalist

Reach me at bethany.lindsay@cbc.ca or on Twitter through @bethanylindsay.

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