(OTTOWA) — Two Canadian teenage girls have been charged with human trafficking for using social media to lure other teen girls to a housing complex and then forcing them into prostitution. A third teenager involved in the alleged pimping is still at large.
“It’s something that has shocked us and the community,” Ottawa Police Staff Sgt. John McGetrick said at a news conference. “We’re actively investigating.”
Police say that three separate incidents were identified in which three female victims, ranging from 13 to 17 years old, were lured to a housing complex in Ottawa and then forcibly driven to other locations for prostitution purposes.
“We had three individual reports–one received on May 19, one on May 31 and one on June 3,” McGetrick said. “The investigators did a great job of quickly linking them together, realizing the common threads between them and it kind of evolved from there.”
McGetrick said that “social media was a factor” in planning the initial meetings arranged between the suspects and the victims. He told ABC News that the suspects and the victims were “vaguely known to each other,” but were not friends.
“The meetings were intended to do an enjoyable activity, let’s say, hang out,” he said. “There was no ill-intention in the invite. Obviously things changed once that happened.”
McGetrick would not provide details about how the suspects forcibly managed the victims into prostitution.
Police believe that there were no adults involved in the organization of the prostitution ring, and are searching for the “johns” that sexually engaged with the victims.
The names of the 15-year-old girls arrested on June 8 and 9 cannot be released since they are protected under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
In addition to human trafficking, the girls face other charges including robbery, procuring, forcible confinement, sexual assault, assault, uttering threats and abduction.
One of the girls is also charged with administering a noxious substance, McGetrick said. He believes the teens will be tried as juveniles and could face up to three years in prison.
Authorities are still searching for a third suspect, a 17-year-old girl, and are investigating whether there could be more victims.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Holly Yan, CNN
Ralph Ellis, Ben Wedeman and Michael Pearson, CNN
Sugam Pokharel and Tim Hume, CNN
Michael Pearson and Steve Almasy, CNN