Airbnb rentals used for human trafficking, Toronto police say
Toronto Star
By Emma McIntosh Staff Reporter
22 February 2018

McLean and Thaxter face charges related to human trafficking, firearm possession, forcible confinement and threatening death.

Toronto police have arrested two men after they say a woman was forced into the sex trade, shuttled to various Airbnb rentals in the GTA, and eventually shot.

Investigators have noticed an uptick in pimps using Airbnb rentals in recent years. That’s likely because they’re more anonymous, and it’s more challenging for police to get information about them, compared to traditional hotels and motels, said Det.-Sgt. Nunzio Tramontozzi.

“There has to be more due diligence on the part of the… people that are renting out their properties,” Tramontozzi told a news conference Thursday. “We have a good relationship with Airbnb. We have brought our concerns to them, and they’re working with us to try and rid pimps of using their properties in Toronto.”

Police starting looking into the case on Feb. 10 after investigators were notified of a shooting victim at a Brampton hospital.

The 19-year-old woman told Peel police she was shot at the Idlewood Inn in Scarborough.

Police allege the woman was forced into the sex trade in early January. They say her ID was taken, she was photographed “in various degrees of undress,” and ads were posted for her “sexual services” online.

Two men shuttled the woman to Airbnb rentals throughout the GTA and forced her to serve clients.

On Feb. 5, the woman got into a verbal argument with the men at a Scarborough motel, said Tramontozzi.

At this point, police allege, one of the men handed the other a loaded .45-calibre semiautomatic handgun. Police say the gunman pointed the gun at the woman’s face. When she tried to push it away, he became angry and fired, shooting her in the buttocks area.

In the days that followed, police allege the woman was transferred to various locations in the GTA, but the men refused to get her medical attention.

“She had the courage and fortitude to get away from her captors,” Tramontozzi said. He declined to say how she got to a local hospital, saying that evidence will come out in court.

On Tuesday, Toronto police arrested Tyrel McLean, 18, in Hamilton. They also seized a large amount of money, ammunition and a .45-calibre handgun.

The same day, investigators executed a search warrant on a Brampton home and arrested Dante Thaxter, 18. Police seized money and ammunition, along with a loaded 9-mm handgun.

Thaxter and McLean face charges related to human trafficking, firearm possession, forcible confinement and threatening death. Thaxter is also charged with careless use of a firearm, and discharging a firearm with intent to wound or endanger life.

They were scheduled to appear in court in Toronto on Wednesday.

The victim continues to recover and is receiving help, said Tramontozzi. He wouldn’t say how the victim knew her captors, but said she wasn’t homeless and thought the men were people she could trust.

“She’s doing better than she was,” Tramontozzi said. “She’s in a safe place.”

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