- Marius Trifu Miclescu will be held until a bail hearing on Friday
A Montreal man faces five charges of human trafficking as well as procuring and living off the avails of prostitution, following his arrest this morning as part of an investigation into the human trafficking of people of Romanian origin into Canada.
The RCMP arrested Marius Trifu Miclescu, 38, a Romanian man living in Montreal's St-Léonard borough, as part of an investigation dubbed Project Combative. The investigation was started about a year ago to target criminal organizations involved in alleged smuggling and sexual exploitation of young Romanian women.
Montreal 'hotbed of human trafficking,' advocate says
The founder of Les Affranchies (The Freed) — a Montreal group which fights human trafficking — says for every case where police lay charges, there are hundreds that never come to light.
"Street gangs know that it's much more lucrative at this point to sell the services of a girl than to sell cocaine," said Coleen MacKinnon.
MacKinnon says arrests are rare in Quebec because police forces in the province don't have the tools or the training they need.
Les Affranchies is calling on police in Quebec to follow British Columbia's lead. MacKinnon says B.C.'s Office to Combat Trafficking in Persons has intervened in more than 160 cases since it was formed six years ago.
Miclescu made a brief appearance this afternoon in a Montreal courtroom, where a judge ordered he not be allowed to contact any of the women he is accused of forcing into prostitution.
Police suspect Miclescu was involved in human trafficking in the greater Montreal area.
Cpl. Caroline Letang said the trafficking ring operated by reaching out to families in Romania, promising to smuggle family members to Canada for a better life.
Letang said people were usually smuggled through the United States and then across the border near Cornwall, Ont.
So far, four alleged victims have been identified. According to Letang, the victims were coerced through beatings and threats to work in erotic massage parlours to pay off their debts.
In case like this, Letang said victims are often afraid to testify.
"It is hard because obviously in human trafficking cases, the victims are very scared, scared of what will happen to them," she said.
Police said a major challenge in these types of investigations is tracking down alleged crimes that often happen in legal establishments.
"Erotic massage parlours, we know there's prostitution there. It's closed-door prostitution," Letang said.
She said there are at least 350 such parlours in Montreal alone.
Letang said more arrests are expected in the next few weeks.
Police are also searching for Valentin Dumitru, 54, also from Saint-Léonard.
Earlier arrests include Toronto residents
Miclescu's arrest for human trafficking is the latest of several in recent weeks.
Last September, Serafin Cirnaru, 39, of Toronto, was arrested after allegedly planning to smuggle several Romanian families into Canada.
Cirnaru is due to appear in court on Nov. 4 for a bail hearing.
Two other Toronto residents — Mirabela Dumitru, 31, and Lilian Ursoi, 23, are also facing charges in connection with their involvement in the human trafficking network.