Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Brothel busted, men charged

Women offered drugs, food, some cash for sex 'dates'

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Two city men face rare charges following the dismantling of a hotel-room brothel Winnipeg police say involved the exploitation of young and vulnerable women.

Robert Wesley Gow, 28, and Andre Collins Mitchell, 42, each face allegations of living off the avails of prostitution and keeping a common bawdy house in a hotel room at the Thriftlodge on Notre Dame Avenue. They are presumed innocent and none of the allegations has been proven.

Police said Thursday officers in the counter-exploitation unit also probed activities at a downtown hotel as part of the overall investigation.

The unit began working the case in late September based on information it received about "concerns" over what was taking place, police told the Free Press Thursday.

Young women were recruited and forced to work as escorts, only to see their earnings from arranged "dates" taken from them, a police spokesman said investigators learned. Drugs, food and some cash were proffered in exchange for performing sex acts with clients.

"These individuals were (allegedly) taking advantage of these vulnerable females and exploiting them in every way possible," Const. Jason Michalyshen said. Court documents identify only one complainant, who Michalyshen said is 18 years old.

Both suspects knew the young woman previously in some way, said Michalyshen, declining to offer specifics.

Court documents identify the location of the bawdy house as a room at the Thriftlodge on Notre Dame. Police say it was in operation between early August and October this year.

Gow and Mitchell were arrested Wednesday and ordered held at the Winnipeg Remand Centre. Mitchell is accused of assaulting the complainant with a cellphone during the time police say the brothel was running, court documents state.

Both men appeared in court briefly Thursday, where the Crown obtained orders they not communicate with the complainant while in custody.

At the time of their arrests, Gow and Mitchell were subject to supervised probation orders and are now accused of breaching them as a result of the brothel probe.

Mitchell's criminal record is lengthy. Last year, he was being supervised in the community by the criminal organization high-risk offenders unit of Manitoba Corrections, court was told in January.

In April, Mitchell was cleared of charges he faced after a man was assaulted outside a Main Street hotel over some beer, allegations he "vehemently" denied. Judge Tim Preston was told at a January bail hearing Mitchell has struggled with drug addiction in the past.

Gow's record is also long and contains a number of violent, domestic-related convictions. He was recently released early from jail after being handed a six-month sentence for assault in June. Judge Carena Roller was told he's considered a "high-risk offender" who has battled addictions problems.

Police said the investigation is continuing.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 4, 2013 B1

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