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The Globe and Mail

Judge hands down Canada's toughest penalty for human trafficking

Human trafficking suspects, clockwise from top left: Attila Kolompar, 35; Gizella Domotor, 42; Gyula Domotor, 32; Gizella Kolompar, 41; Lajos Domotor, 42.

Gyula Domotor sat hunched over in the prisoner's box as a Superior Court judge sentenced the 34-year-old to seven and a half years in prison for human trafficking Thursday – the toughest penalty ever imposed in Canada for the crime.

It was a long way down for a man who once enjoyed a comfortable suburban life, inhabiting a palatial home in an affluent subdivision, driving a Mercedes and paying cash for a Caribbean cruise.

All the while, court heard, Mr. Domotor was second-in-command in a Hungarian crime family that lured people from overseas with the promise of a better life in Canada, then used them as unpaid labour on construction sites. Victims were made to live in gang members' basements, fed scraps from the table and threatened with violence if they tried to leave.

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"Gyula Domotor plays a major role in the Domotor family crime group," said RCMP Constable Lepa Jankovic, who led the investigation that brought the organization down. "He is involved in the trafficking of male Hungarians who he directs to work in his stucco company without pay."

Mr. Domotor also availed himself of their labour to build a deck on his house and bought workers from his associates for $3,000, court heard.

A short, slim man with black hair in a buzz cut, Mr. Domotor looked over at four of his victims seated in court as he was led in. Dressed in a grey, collared sweater, black sweatpants and blue canvas sneakers, his ankles shackled, he spoke only to plead guilty to conspiring to traffic in humans and participating in a criminal organization. His lawyer confirmed Mr. Domotor admitted the allegations laid out by Constable Jankovic were true.

Mr. Domotor came to Canada in September of 1998 with his older brother, Ferenc Domotor. He became a citizen in 2004 and raised two children, now teenagers. He also ran Domotor Construction and Stucco. In 2008 several other members of his family came over from Hungary and the group, allegedly led by Ferenc Domotor, promptly began the trafficking operation.

Court heard that one of Mr. Domotor's victims, Tibor Csuti, worked 15-hour days for his captor. Another, Janos Bognar, was flown to Regina for four weeks, where Mr. Domotor had him put stucco up at a hotel. One woman was made to work as a maid, cleaning a gang member's house, doing laundry and looking after his children.

Ferenc Domotor was charged in February, 2010 under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. At the time, authorities did not know Gyula Domotor was also involved in the scheme. He paid his brother's bail and agreed to supervise him, but continued the human-trafficking ring, said Crown attorney Toni Skarica.

"[That's]incredibly brazen conduct that thumbs its nose at our entire system of justice," the prosecutor said.

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In October of that year, both brothers were hit with criminal charges. Ferenc Domotor pleaded guilty last week to three charges, including conspiring to traffic in humans, and is awaiting sentencing.

One day in the spring of 2010, Mr. Csuti, 58, was building a deck on Gyula Domotor's new home in the Hamilton suburb of Ancaster. After Mr. Domotor's son scolded him for taking a break, the family punished Mr. Csuti by making him clean the child's shoes and not feeding him until after 11 p.m., Constable Jankovic testified. He fled the next day.

Mr. Bognar, meanwhile, escaped that summer by beating his own arm with a tool so he would not have to go to work one day. When the family left the house, he escaped and called police.

Even after victims escaped, court heard, the family tracked them down at shelters and safe houses, and tried to convince them to return. In a victim impact statement, Mr. Bognar wrote that he ran into a gang member on the street and the young man threatened to slash his throat if he testified.

"These people, in the eyes of Mr. Domotor and his co-conspirators, were nothing more than chattel to be used to further their own gain," said Mr. Justice Stephen Glithero.

He accepted a joint submission between the prosecution and defence, giving Mr. Domotor credit for both his early guilty plea and the year and a half he has spent in jail awaiting trial. He will serve another two years and six months, but could be paroled earlier.

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Ten people have pleaded guilty to a variety of charges in the case; others are awaiting trial.

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