RCMP bust child exploitation ring and warn of others

On July 9, RCMP informed the public of a series of arrests made in Portage la Prairie involving drug and human trafficking as well as possession and production of child pornography. Police say that at least three female victims were exploited ranging in age from 13 and 15.

The RCMP Internet Child Exploitation Unit (ICE) has made seven arrests with a total of 65 charges between them.

Authorities also warn there are likely many more such human trafficking rings around the province and ask the public to be vigilant.

“If you think this is not happening in your community, you are wrong,” says Constable Kirandeep Hira with the ICE unit. “This is human trafficking and it is happening all over Manitoba. We all need to do our part to protect those victimized by traffickers. If you see something, say something. Those engaged in the production or exchange of child pornography are also throughout our province and we are dedicated to enforcing against anyone who exploits children.”

Investigation of the crimes began on February 2, 2024 when the RCMP was notified by a suspicious observer that a young girl was spotted in Portage accompanied by older men.

Officers were able to locate the 15-year-old girl along with an additional female of the same age and confirmed that they were victims of sex trafficking.

Over the course of the next four months, ten search warrants were carried out.

A full investigation revealed that the two young women had been befriended by an adult female who had invited them to hang out with some of her friends. Trusting the female, the girls were taken to a variety of residences between June to December of 2023.

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

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

“The exploitation included the adult males sending nude photos to the two youth and requiring photos of the two youth,” the RCMP release states. “As well, telecommunications between several of the males and the adult female took place via Snapchat or Facebook Messenger to groom or procure services from the youths.”

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

Charged is 43-year-old Chasity Nicole Assiniboine for child luring, trafficking, and benefitting from sexual services provided by someone who is under 18.

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

Charges for the latter two men include possession of child pornography and the printing, publishing, or making of child pornography. All of the accused are known to each other.

“Investigators do believe there are more victims and survivors,” says Inspector Shawn Pike, Investigative Services Officer for RCMP Major Crime Services. “Information has led officers to know that a currently unidentified 13- or 14-year-old female was also exploited by this group. We ask anybody who knows anything about this operation, or is a survivor of it, 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 that this crime ring was stopped and the victims saved thanks to a couple of vigilant Portage citizens who reported what seemed like a suspicious sight.

She strongly urges residents everywhere to not stay silent when such circumstances are observed.

“I really think knowing the signs to look for include anything that seems out of the ordinary,” Seel said at a July 9 press release. “If anything’s raising your suspicions and just 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 Crisis Line at 204-786-8631 or toll free at 1-888-292-7565. Klinic can also help those wishing to make a third-party report of sexual assault, meaning that survivors can report the sexual assault to a recognized third party, such as Klinic, and that crime is then reported by Klinic to the police without the survivor’s identifying information. Reporting can also take place through Cybertip.ca.

Brenda Sawatzky, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Niverville Citizen