From October 2014 to April 2015, the Sex Crimes Human Trafficking Enforcement Team were looking into a Toronto street gang called the Complex Crip Gangsters for what they believed to be a Canada-wide human trafficking network. Police called the investigation Project Guardian.
Police announce the arrest of what they say are nine members of a Toronto street gang on Wednesday morning. (Shannon Martin/CBC)
Police say the accused would recruit women at dance clubs, schools and group homes and force them into sex work. They would also befriend women online, using Facebook and Instagram.
The victims involved ranged in age from 15 to 33 and were from Nova Scotia, Ontario and Alberta. The girls and women were forced to work and turn over the money they earned, and if they did not make enough money, they would be physically beaten and threatened, police say.
The police allege the women were being forced to service 10-15 clients a day.
Police say they identified four alleged victims during their investigation.
On April 2, the police raided dwellings in the area of Jane Street and Wilson Avenue, and Kipling Avenue and Rexdale Boulevard to make the arrests. They also say they found stolen property, as well as drugs such as cocaine, crack cocaine, heroin and MDMA. As well, they gathered evidence related to hotels and motels.
The charges laid include human trafficking and drug-related counts, as well as obstructing a peace officer, possession of the proceeds of crime, and trafficking in persons under 18 years.
The accused are:
- Marcus Cumsille, 21, of Toronto.
- Joel Edwards, 22, of Toronto.
- Tyronne Matthews, 20, of Toronto.
- Felix Funes Vasquez, 19, of Toronto.
- Shane Hendry, 18, of Toronto.
- Symisha Murray, 19, of Toronto.
- Abdulwahab Sheikh, 18, of Toronto.
- Keron Christie, 32, of Toronto.
- Chanelle Espinosa, 20, of Toronto.
Police have released some of the photos of the arrested. Clockwise from top left: Marcus Cumsille, 21, Joel Edwards, 22, Levi Alexander, 19, who has not yet been arrested, and Chanelle Espinosa, 20. (Toronto police)
Levi Alexander, 19, of Toronto, has not been apprehended and is wanted on an arrest warrant.
Police believe there may be more victims.
Anyone with information is asked to contact investigators at 416-808-7474.
Information can also be passed on anonymously through Crime Stoppers at 416-222-8477.