Tamas’s documents? Here they are. Want to speak with the men downstairs? No problem.
The basement was partitioned into a common area and two unfinished, 10-by-11-foot bedrooms. Each room had three or four mattresses crammed in on the concrete floor.
When Constable Jankovic descended the stairs, there were four men sitting there in their work clothes. She explained she was a police officer and they could come with her, but the men sat frozen and said nothing.
Police took Mr. Miko to a St. Catharines shelter, where he was reunited with Mr. Bogdan and met several other victims.
“Tamas saw David immediately, walked over and hugged him like he hadn’t seen him in a year or two,” recalls Constable Farah. “They all greeted each other as though, not knowing each other, they’d been through some kind of trauma.”
THE CRIME WEB
Over the following weeks, more victims contacted police, fleeing the houses of two other men, Ferenc Karadi and Attila Kolompar.
The RCMP pieced together the ties that bound the traffickers. They were all related to Ferenc Domotor. Mr. Kolompar is his brother-in-law; Mr. Karadi his cousin and Eva Kolompar, Attila’s sister and Mr. Simon’s captor, is married to Lajos Domotor, whose son-in-law is Ferenc Domotor’s nephew.
Soon, there was enough evidence to get search warrants for the homes. A justice of the peace signed off on them on Feb. 3; that evening, Constable Jankovic assembled more than 20 officers and briefed them on the case.
The next morning, at 7 a.m., they carried out simultaneous raids on three houses.
In Ferenc Domotor’s bedroom, they hit the jackpot: Neatly arranged in a dresser drawer were immigration documents, work permits, debit cards and chequebooks – all in the names of Mr. Domotor’s victims. There were also six blank invitation letters, already signed by a notary public, that he could use to bring over anyone he wanted.
At Mr. Karadi’s home, Constable Farah and his team found the documents hidden under the mattress in the master bedroom. They also discovered two more men in the basement.
Mr. Domotor, Mr. Karadi and Mr. Kolompar were arrested on immigration charges and released on bail. Over the next few months, Constable Jankovic tracked down more victims, Constable Farah and Fern Puzzo, a civilian RCMP employee, organized the evidence and followed the paper trails. The documents showed how each victim was brought to Canada, from the letter of invitation to the airline ticket to their refugee claims.
Meanwhile, they enlisted the help of Timea Nagy, a member of a human-trafficking NGO, to help take care of the victims. She went to see them daily, taking the men to immigration offices to sort out their status and helping them open bank accounts. Ms. Nagy spent thousands of dollars out of her own pocket to buy the men clothes, haircuts and phone cards so they could speak with their families back home.
“It just didn’t stop for seven months. There wasn’t a month that went by when there wasn’t a new victim that came forward,” Ms. Nagy says.
On numerous occasions, the traffickers found where the victims were living and they had to be moved to from shelter to shelter.
By the fall, the RCMP had enough evidence to charge nine people with human trafficking. At first, there was some debate: On major cases, the Crown will often prosecute just two or three top players to keep the file simple. But the Mounties felt strongly about this one and eventually, they won out. On Oct. 6, 2010, it was official.
THE LEGAL STRATEGY
Crown attorney Antonio (Toni) Skarica is in his late 50s, has wavy brown hair and wears a pair of small spectacles perched on his nose. At John Sopinka Courthouse, a stately art deco building on Main Street, he is known for his penchant for fiery rhetoric both inside and outside court.
One day in October, 2010, he was chatting with a fellow Crown who was prosecuting the Domotor case at the time.
“I just remember seeing a bunch of boxes in one my colleague’s office and I heard that these charges had been laid,” Mr. Skarica recalls. “It looked interesting and challenging and I volunteered to do it.”