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Lepa Jankovic, left, and Husam Farah are two RCMP officers who brought down Canada's largest-known human-trafficking ring. The two are photographed on April 5, 2012, at the RCMP offices in Stoney Creek, Ont. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)
Lepa Jankovic, left, and Husam Farah are two RCMP officers who brought down Canada's largest-known human-trafficking ring. The two are photographed on April 5, 2012, at the RCMP offices in Stoney Creek, Ont. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

Crime

Bringing down Canada's massive human-trafficking ring Add to ...

That was on a Friday. Ferenc Domotor’s bail hearing was Monday. Constable Farah arrived 15 minutes late –earning a rebuke from Mr. Skarica, whom he had never met before. With little court experience, the officer choked under cross-examination and Mr. Domotor was granted bail.

Despite this setback, Mr. Skarica decided the charges were so serious, he would oppose bail for everyone who was arrested.

“It’s easy to do something when you know you’re going to win,” he told Constable Farah at the time. “The measure of a person is knowing you’re going to lose but still fighting for what’s right.”

The officer grew more comfortable in the witness box and started arming the prosecutor with more evidence. By the end, they built a five-inch-thick binder – what Mr. Skarica called their “Abrams tank” – to present at every hearing.

One more family member, Ferenc Jr., got bail. The others remained in custody. The hearings convinced Mr. Skarica there was enough evidence to beef up the charges. This wasn’t simply a few people breaking the law, he decided, this was a full-blown criminal organization.

In November, Mr. Skarica added a new charge – participating in a criminal organization. He also modified the other charge from straight human trafficking to conspiring to traffic in persons. The difference is significant. If you are charged with a straight offence, you can only be prosecuted for what you did personally; with conspiracy, you can be prosecuted for what your co-conspirators did, too.

Mr. Skarica’s strategy was to keep the gang members in jail before trial. It would make victims more likely to testify if they knew their traffickers couldn’t come after them, and pressure the accused to plead guilty. Without anyone on the outside, he reasoned, they couldn’t keep their criminal enterprise going and their money would dry up.

In January, 2011, Mr. Skarica applied to have Ferenc Domotor’s bail revoked. This time, he won. Police also arrested other family members. But Ferenc Jr. was still out.

Constable Jankovic, meanwhile, travelled to Hungary to meet with the federal police in Budapest. They confirmed that members of the family faced criminal charges in their homeland: Mr. Domotor had been charged with extortion shortly before he moved to Canada. Mr. Karadi was convicted of running a protection racket.

At the same time, the Domotors’ in-laws went after Mr. Miko’s family, offering bribes and threatening violence. Mr. Miko told Ms. Nagy who told Constable Jankovic. She informed the Hungarian federal police who brought the family to Budapest. An NGO flew them to Canada.

Then, Mr. Skarica got an alarming phone call: A federal member of Parliament told him a Hungarian hit man nicknamed “The Killer” had been hired to assassinate him, both RCMP officers and all the witnesses in the case. The assassin was stopped before he could reach Canada.

Around the same time, Mr. Skarica secured the money to hire junior Crown Valerie Gillis to help him out by organizing evidence and researching case law. She knew they were treading fresh legal ground: “Human trafficking is a new charge – I was really shocked to find out it was happening here in Canada.”

Finally, Constables Jankovic and Farah discovered Ferenc Jr.’s bank account had paid for trafficking victims’ plane tickets. He was jailed in July.

In October, Ferenc Karadi and Gyula Domotor applied for a bail review. They called witnesses to testify on their behalf. When Mr. Skarica cross-examined them, he caught them in repeated lies about their welfare frauds. Over the next few months, everyone pleaded guilty.

A GROUNDBREAKING CASE

The prosecution of the Domotor organization nearly doubled the number of human-trafficking convictions in Canada. The crime can be difficult to prove: You must establish that people have been recruited or transported, that they have been forced to work and that they have been intimidated or attacked. This case had them all.

As for those men who came to Canada looking for a better life, all are in different places. Some, like Mr. Miko, have found work and obtained refugee status. Others are struggling, with limited English and no life experience outside small-town Hungary. All are still afraid.

“Emotionally,” Ms. Nagy says, “it’s going to take them a very long time to recover.”

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