WINNIPEG police have laid rare human-trafficking charges after a young woman was allegedly forced to work in the sex trade across Western Canada.
Jared Matthew Schaffer, 29, was arrested this week following an investigation that began last fall by the Winnipeg Police Service Counter-Exploitation unit.
It is one of the first cases of its kind in the city.
The victim, whose age has not been released, claims she met the accused in the summer of 2012 and quickly began working as an escort. Police say for the next 18 months, the man controlled the woman through "intimidation, threats and violence" which they say included preying on "her difficult financial situation."
She worked in Winnipeg but was also sent to numerous cities in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.
Schaffer has now been charged with trafficking in persons, receiving material benefits resulting from trafficking in persons, living off the avails of prostitution, procuring to become a prostitute, procuring to have illicit sexual intercourse, assault causing bodily harm, assault and failing to comply with a probation order.
None of the allegations have been proven and he is presumed innocent. He is being held in custody without bail.
Schaffer is no stranger to the justice system, with numerous prior arrests and convictions ranging from property offences to violent crimes.
Court records obtained by the Free Press show Schaffer pleaded guilty in August 2013 to aggravated assault for a vicious attack on his 25-year-old girlfriend. The victim was punched in the face during a June 2012 argument over a large sum of money inside a Fort Rouge home. She suffered a broken jaw which had to be wired shut for several weeks.
"My jaw was hanging," the woman told court during a preliminary hearing. "My face now looks deformed compared to before."
The woman told court she met Schaffer earlier in 2012 and began a relationship which was extremely toxic and continued even after the attack. In fact, at one point she tried to recant her claim that Schaffer attacked her, blaming another man entirely. She later admitted Schaffer had convinced her to change the story.
"He's very dominating. He would get very angry and belittle me," she testified.
Schaffer was sentenced to nine months of time already served in custody following his guilty plea. He was also placed on two years of supervised probation which included no contact with the victim.
Human trafficking has been referred to as the modern-day slave trade, where victims are often lured away from their homes with the promise of a better life, only to be forced into the sex trade.
The Criminal Code added a specific section against human trafficking in 2005, defining an accused as "a person (who) exploits another person if they cause the victim to provide labour or service for fear of their safety or the safety of someone known to them." Police say that can mean forced participation in the sex trade or other kinds of labour.
Last November, Winnipeg police charged a 27-year-old man with human trafficking for alleged acts involving a 24-year-old female victim. The case remains before the courts.
Prior to that, the only previous human-trafficking case in Winnipeg ended in 2011 with the Crown announcing they were dropping all charges against a Winnipeg woman.
The 39-year-old accused allegedly befriended a 21-year-old woman from northern Manitoba and forced her into the sex trade. The victim was allegedly forced to turn over the cash she made to pay for food and a roof over her head.
The Crown cited serious issues with the alleged victim in their decision to abandon the prosecution, including her story dramatically changing from what she originally told police.