Two Ontario men have been arrested and charged by Nova Scotia RCMP in connection with a national human trafficking investigation, known as “Operational Hellbender.”
RCMP say they arrested 31-year-old Malachi Almonzo Downey of Vaughan, Ont., in Upper Unslow, Colchester County, N.S. Two days later, Sanderico Rekel Beals of Scarborough, Ont., was arrested in Dartmouth.
Both men have each been charged with trafficking in persons, receiving a material benefit from sexual services, receiving a material benefit from trafficking in persons and laundering proceeds of crime. Downey has also been charged with possession of percocet.
The two men were remanded in custody and were scheduled to appear in Dartmouth Provincial Court on Monday morning.
READ MORE: RCMP human trafficking investigation reveals ‘numerous’ Nova Scotia victims
“By arresting and charging these human traffickers today, we are removing them from a position to exploit more young women and girls in Nova Scotia and across Canada,” said Supt. Alfredo Bangloy, federal policing officer.
Downey and Beals’ arrests come four months after the May 2017 arrest of 31-year-old Lorenzo Trevor Thomas, who was arrested and charged in relation to the same national investigation.
According to police, the investigation, which began in April 2016, sent Nova Scotia RCMP officers across the country in an effort to locate victims of human trafficking. Due to the “complexity” of the investigation, officers worked with their various provincial counterparts in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as Halifax Regional Police.
Police are still asking for members of the public to come forward if they have information about other possible victims. A 24-hour tip line for the public to call or text (902) 449-2425 remains in place. Crime Stoppers calls can also be made anonymously to 1-800-222-8477.
A 31-year-old man originally from Nova Scotia has been arrested and charged in relation to a year-long investigation into human trafficking.
Nova Scotia RCMP say they were tipped off last spring about men, originally from Nova Scotia, who had relocated to Ontario and were trafficking and exploiting “numerous” women from Nova Scotia in the sex trade across Canada.
“Human trafficking investigations are complex as they are often reliant on victims coming forward,” said Supt. Alfredo Bangloy, Federal Policing Officer.
“We know there are other victims of human trafficking from Nova Scotia out there. Our goal is to find these women, get them to safety, and go after their traffickers.”
READ MORE: Halifax man sentenced to 7 years for trafficking 14-year-old girl
The investigation, titled “Operation Hellbender” sent Nova Scotia RCMP officers across Canada in an effort to locate the victims. Police say due to the “complexity” of the investigation, they worked with RCMP from British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Newfoundland, along with Halifax Regional Police.
As a result of the investigation, Niagara Regional Police arrested Lorenzo Trevor Thomas without incident on March 27. A search warrant was subsequently carried out at a home in St. Catherine’s Ontario where police seized a loaded 45 calibre handgun.