RCMP dismantles child exploitation ring, warns of others

RCMP dismantles child exploitation ring, warns of others

Police

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On July 9, RCMP advised the public of a series of arrests made in Portage la Prairie related to drug and human trafficking as well as possession and production of child pornography. Police say at least three females between the ages of 13 and 15 were exploited.

The RCMP’s Internet Child Exploitation (ICE) Unit made seven arrests and laid a total of 65 charges.

Authorities also warn that there are likely many other human trafficking rings operating in the province and are asking the public to be vigilant.

“If you think this isn’t happening in your community, you’re wrong,” said ICE Officer Kirandeep Hira. “This is human trafficking and it’s happening all across Manitoba. We all need to do our part to protect victims of trafficking. If you see something, let us know. Those involved in the production or exchange of child pornography are also present throughout the province and we are committed to cracking down on anyone who exploits children.”

The investigation into the crimes began on February 2, 2024 when a suspicious observer notified the RCMP that a young girl had been seen in Portage accompanied by older men.

Officers were able to locate the 15-year-old girl and another woman of the same age and confirmed they were victims of sex trafficking.

Over the next four months, ten search warrants were executed.

Further investigation revealed that the two young women had befriended an adult woman who invited them to go out with some of her friends. Trusting the woman, the girls were taken to various residences between June and December 2023.

At each location, an adult male was present, offering the girls drugs in exchange for sexual acts. On numerous occasions, the girls were locked in the building by the adult female, preventing their escape.

The adult female received money from the male perpetrators in the form of drugs, including methamphetamine and cocaine.

“The exploitation included sending nude photos to the two youths and requesting photos of the two youths,” the RCMP statement said. “In addition, communications between several men and the adult woman took place via Snapchat or Facebook Messenger to seduce the youths or provide them with services.”

During the search warrants, the RCMP seized a large quantity of illegal drugs as well as 13 firearms, including rifles and shotguns.

Chasity Nicole Assiniboine, 43, is charged with luring and trafficking children and receiving sexual services from a person under 18.

Six men were arrested, aged between 34 and 44. They include David Guy Howard Taylor, Scott Joseph Taylor, Wesley Clayton Roulette, Frank Peter Justin Tecza, Alexander Paul Lidster and Sean Michael Boak.

The charges against the two latter men include possession of child pornography and printing, publishing or producing child pornography. All of the defendants know each other.

“Investigators believe there are additional victims and survivors,” said Inspector Shawn Pike, Investigative Services Officer with the RCMP Major Crimes Section. “Information has led officers to the knowledge that a 13- or 14-year-old girl, who has not been identified at this time, was also exploited by this group. We are asking anyone who is aware of this operation or who survived this operation to please call the Internet Child Exploitation Unit at 204-984-3129.”

In the meantime, the investigation continues.

RCMP Media Relations Officer Tara Seel says the crime ring was dismantled and the victims were saved thanks to a vigilant Portage couple who reported what appeared to be a suspicious scene.

She strongly urges people around the world not to remain silent when such circumstances are observed.

“I really think the signs to watch for include anything that seems out of the ordinary,” Seel said in a July 9 news release. “If something raises your suspicions and doesn’t seem right, there’s no harm in calling and just saying, ‘This is what I saw. This is what I feel.’”

For anyone in need of resources, Klinic Community Health has a 24/7 Sexual Assault Helpline at 204-786-8631 or toll-free at 1-888-292-7565. Klinic can also assist those wishing to report sexual assault to a third party, meaning victims can report the sexual assault to a recognized third party, such as Klinic, and the crime is then reported by Klinic to police without the victim’s identifying information being provided. Reporting can also be done through Cybertip.ca.