A Markham man has been sentenced to 2-1/2 years in jail, and $4 million ordered forfeit — the largest cash seizure in the history of York Regional Police —
received in connection with the force's human trafficking investigation dubbed Project Eonni.
Di Luan, 39, pleaded guilty Nov. 21 before the Honourable Justice Amit Ghosh to the charges of procuring, advertising sexual services and possession of proceeds of property obtained by crime, according to a York Regional Police news release.
Harold Lai, 42, of Richmond Hill was convicted of material benefit from sexual services and received a 15-month conditional sentence and probation, police added.
Jia Zhi Li, 50, of Markham, received a conditional discharge for possession of property obtained by crime under $5,000 and was given 18 months probation.
"As a result of this investigation, nine female victims were rescued from human trafficking and were successfully connected with victim support services and many have since been safely returned to their home country," police said.
Investigators initiated the year-long project in November 2020 after information led officers to believe that an organized group of suspects operating a company called Moon Waiting VIP was involved in human trafficking throughout the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
Project Eonni began with information received from the Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking and Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada, police said.
On Nov. 3, 2021, York police, working with the Toronto Police Service, Peel Regional Police, Ontario Provincial Police and Canada Border Services Agency, executed 20 search warrants at locations across the GTA, charged six people and seized more than $4 million cash from the primary accused, Di Luan.
"This important investigation would not have been possible without the support of Victim Services of York Region," police said.
"Members of the human trafficking unit are continuing their aggressive efforts in combating human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of adults and underage victims. In many cases, these individuals are victims of crime who have been forced into the sex trade. Investigators are willing to speak with anyone involved in the sex trade who may be looking for a way out or who may require assistance to escape these dangerous circumstances."
A national hotline has been established through the Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking for victims and survivors to reach out for assistance and for members of the public to report incidents of human trafficking. The number to call is 1-833-900-1010. For more information, click on the link: www.canadiancentretoendhumantrafficking.ca.