Manitoba·CBC Investigates

Man wanted in Philippines for sex crimes against kids known to Winnipeg police since 2011: search warrant

A Winnipeg man wanted in connection with an alleged child sex trafficking ring in the Philippines has abandoned his motion that, if successful, would have forced Winnipeg police to return electronic devices seized during the execution of a search warrant.

Publication ban and sealing order on the case lifted, police given more time to search electronics

Marshall Ruskin, 63, abandoned a motion Tuesday that would have forced Winnipeg police to return electronic devices they seized as part of its investigation. (Facebook)

WARNING: this story contains disturbing details about child sexual abuse.

A Winnipeg man wanted in connection with an alleged child sex trafficking ring in the Philippines has abandoned a court motion that, if successful, would have forced Winnipeg police to return electronic devices seized during the execution of a search warrant.

On Tuesday, CBC News was notified that Marshall Ruskin, 63, is no longer challenging a Winnipeg Police Service court application to retain his property.

Ruskin has been on the radar of Winnipeg police since 2011 for his alleged "interest in young children," according to court documents obtained by CBC News. 

The documents were under a publication ban and sealing order, which was also lifted on Tuesday.

Ruskin remains a free man in Canada, even though he's been wanted on three arrest warrants in the Philippines since 2016. 

He's accused of paying for videos and photos of girls as young as 18 months old being sexually abused and tortured in the Philippines, according to yet untested Winnipeg police seach warrant documents.

In 2019, Winnipeg police executed a search warrant on Ruskin's home in Garden City, where he was living with his now 28-year-old Filipina wife. They seized a number of devices, including his laptop computers and cellphones. 

CBC News first reported on the years-long investigation into Ruskin earlier this year, after obtaining unproven search warrant documents filed by Winnipeg police in court. 

Those documents alleged that Ruskin sent thousands of dollars to the Philippines to watch the live sexual abuse of an 11-year-old girl via Skype. 

Police executed the search warrant after telling a judge they believed he recorded the Skype sessions on his electronic devices.

Peter Scully of Australia walks in handcuffs as he arrives at Cagayan de Oro city hall in southern Philippines on Tuesday, June 16, 2015. (The Associated Press)

The documents also revealed his alleged connection with Peter Scully, who was arrested in 2015 after a global manhunt and has since become one of the world's most notorious pedophiles.

After CBC News published a story last month alleging Ruskin's connection to the child sex trafficking ring, his lawyers got a publication ban and sealing order on all court documents relating to the investigation by Winnipeg police.

The bans were lifted Tuesday in Manitoba's Court of Queen's bench, meaning CBC News can now report on further information it has learned from these documents. 

This includes Ruskin's alleged history with Winnipeg police, and what police say about his career working for the Department of National Defence and occasions when he was flagged by the Canada Border Services Agency.

Offered cash for 'hook-ups': police report

The search warrant documents say Winnipeg police knew about Ruskin's "interest in young children" years before the Philippines investigation, because a number of reports had been made to officers here between 2011 and 2013.

Police incident reports filed in the search warrant application referred to Ruskin as a "known sex trade consumer."

"These occurrences detail disturbing information in regards to young children, and as such this unit entered into an investigation," said police in the search warrant documents.

Police document 10 instances where Ruskin came to the attention of officers.

In one report, a confidential informant told police in 2011 that Ruskin had been asking around for underage girls and was offering cash for "hook-ups," according to the search warrant documents.

A recent photo of Cagayan de Oro, a city in the Philippines. Peter Scully was sentenced to life in prison in Cagayan de Oro court for human trafficking and rape. (Reuel Lowe Jumawid)

Ruskin offered the confidential informant $1,000 to have the informant's four-year-old daughter undress in front of him, police say.

They also say Ruskin offered the informant $2,000 to have her daughter perform oral sex on him.

The police reports say Ruskin paid an informant $100 for a date with a 14-year-old girl, who turned out to be 21.

Ruskin told sex workers that he had two apartments — one where he lived with his wife and another that he took sex trade workers to, according to the court documents. 

The police reports says in 2013, a confidential informant reported a disturbing incident involving Ruskin to police. 

Ruskin told that informant his fantasy was to break into a little girl's room "and force himself onto her and have her fight him off, pushing his chest," the search warrant documents say.

Canadian military contractor

Ruskin travelled to the Philippines 15 times between April 10, 2013, and April 1, 2016, according to the search warrant. They say he had spent a month in the country before returning on Dec. 15, 2013.

The Winnipeg police search warrant documents say in December 2013, border services agents stopped and searched Ruskin on his way home from the Philippines.

Officers found condoms and venereal disease medication, which they say led them to believe he was travelling for sexual reasons.

Winnipeg police say the Canada Border Services Agency told them Ruskin crossed the border into the U.S. up to 30 times a year, the court documents said.

Ruskin worked for the Department of National Defence for decades as a civilian contractor, beginning in 1997. He left in 2016, the same year the Philippines issued three warrants for his arrest.

Winnipeg police knew about Ruskin's 'interest in children' years before the Philippines investigation, according to the search warrant documents. (Facebook)

Winnipeg police say they informed the Canadian Forces National Counter-Intelligence Unit of their investigation into Ruskin in September 2013, according to search warrant documents.

The officers were referred to military police because their investigation was criminal in nature, according to the documents. 

In the court records, Winnipeg police say they were told that Ruskin was a contracted webmaster who worked off base, out of his home. This meant he didn't follow the same regulations or restrictions as those employed on the base.

The documents say Ruskin had access to the National Defence database, which means he would have been privy to a search by military police in that database for his name.

"To maintain being discreet, they have ceased checking his info … [but] will search further if requested on a secret server," the police search warrant documents say.

Ruskin worked as a contractor and could have had as many as 100 contracts in Winnipeg or around the world, with the potential to make as much as $15,000 a month, according to the court documents.

"He would have an unlimited amount of knowledge of computers and the internet, storing, hiding, accessing and keeping files, and how to make it untraceable to him," the police search warrant said.

Police get court order to keep electronics

Ruskin filed a motion in January of this year to have the court direct Winnipeg police to give back all items seized during the 2019 execution of the search warrant.

In court filings, Ruskin said the amount of time that has passed since shows that police have been dragging their feet and are inadequately trained.

Seven of the 10 devices seized were returned to Ruskin, after they were "fully analyzed" and no evidence was located, according to a 2021 affidavit by Winnipeg police Det. Chad Black.

Police said the other three items had not been analyzed due to "encryption that had not been bypassed as of yet."

WATCH | Winnipeg man wanted in Philippines for sex crimes against kids:

Man wanted in Philippines for sex crimes against kids known to Winnipeg police since 2011: search warrant

3 months ago
Duration 1:43
WARNING: this story contains disturbing details about child sexual abuse. A Winnipeg man wanted in connection with an alleged child sex trafficking ring in the Philippines has abandoned a court motion that, if successful, would have forced Winnipeg police to return electronic devices seized during the execution of a search warrant.

Black said that technology continues to evolve, and that police can now access products they couldn't five years ago.

"The possibility of assistance from outside agencies and time are essential," Black wrote. 

In November 2021, Winnipeg police filed an application with the court to keep Ruskin's electronics for three more years, so that officers could continue their attempts to access what's inside them. 

That order was granted on Tuesday.

Under Canadian law, police can only keep a person's property for as long as the courts allow. Normally, items would be returned if no charges are laid.

Police struggled to get info from Philippines 

The search warrant says Winnipeg police were alerted to an investigation by the National Bureau of Investigation in the Philippines involving Ruskin in February 2017.

According to Winnipeg police, Philippines officials weren't sure if they would ask for Ruskin's extradition, so they wanted to know if Winnipeg police could charge Ruskin in Canada.

"We would like very much to ensure that [Ruskin] is prosecuted for his involvement in the heinous crimes committed in the Philippines and we are very prepared to work very hard to do that," wrote Winnipeg police Det.-Sgt. Esther Schmeider in the 2019 search warrant documents. 

She wrote that he needed "to face charges for his part in these crimes," but added "we need to be provided with the appropriate evidence to meet our judicial standards. I do hope that there is a way that we can obtain the evidence [we] require."

Ruskin came to the attention of Philippines law enforcement during their investigation into Australian national Peter Scully. (Name withheld)

Philippines court documents obtained by CBC News say prosecutors approved charges against Ruskin for a number of offences, including four counts of qualified trafficking in persons committed by a syndicate and one count of qualified trafficking in persons committed by a syndicate involving a girl who is now deceased.

Charges were also approved on one count of child abuse and five counts of syndicated child pornography.

"The pieces of evidence, both … [from] local and international sources, clearly suggest a criminal network of online child traffickers and pedophiles" that included Ruskin and Scully, wrote Jinky P. Dedumo, an assistant state prosecutor in the Philippines, on June 30, 2016.

The Philippines has not sought an extradition order.

National Bureau of Investigation officials won't comment on the case because they say it's an ongoing investigation.

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