Undercover sting into attempts to buy sex from a minors results in charges for seven from Mississauga, Pickering and Toronto


Published June 22, 2023 at 3:28 pm

Durham Regional Police Investigators

A Durham Police undercover sting into attempts to buy sex with a minor online has resulted in charges for seven men from across the GTA.

The Durham Police Human Traffic Unit always has an ongoing investigation on the go dubbed Project Firebird. The investigation entails undercover officers posing a minors advertising sexual services online to draw out people interested in purchasing such a service.

The officer put out an ad and makes it clear they are under age 18 when a prospective buyer reaches out. They do this “to create the illusion that individuals can contact the advertiser to purchase sexual services,” police said.

The project has often netted large groups of people in the past. It caught ten suspects last November and another four the preceding December. In the November sting officers posed as a 15-year-old girl. In that instance, one suspect was communicating with an undercover cop for five months. Eventually, he arranged to meet the officer in Durham to allegedly buy sexual services and travelled four hours to the sting.

This time they’ve charged seven people throughout June. They are;

  • Francesco Albanese, 40 0f Toronto
  • Zayne Dob, 23 of Pickering
  • Roberto Lagatto, 48 of Toronto
  • Mohammed Mazlomyar, 44 of Pickering
  • Hardik Patel, 39 of Mississauga
  • Sandip Rai, 38 of Woodbridge, and
  • Youtian Ye, 23 of Scarborough

Each of the suspects has been charged with luring a child to obtain sexual service, obtaining sexual services from a minor and inviting a minor to sexual touching. The charges have not been proven in court.

“This project would not be possible without the support of the Ontario government funding to our Children at Risk of Exploitation (CARE) unit,” police explained, “Our CARE unit has specialized teams which pairs police officers with child protection workers to proactively identify, investigate, locate, and engage children and youth who are at high risk of child sex trafficking.”

The CARE program granted Durham police $3 million to help fund the creation of a new unit which paired police officers and child protection counselors to proactively help kids at high risk of being trafficked.

“If you or anyone you know has been or may be involved in a similar situation, please come forward to our highly trained investigators who are here to provide their support.”

Durham Region also set up StopHT, a support and education services dedicated to aiding victims of Human Trafficking. They have numerous supports in place to help victims and their loved ones escape human trafficking and heal from the resulting traumas. They have an extensive list of partners including Durham Victim Services, several charities, and housing groups.

Human trafficking has grown more frequent in the Region over the last few years. Durham is especially attractive to traffickers due to it’s proximity to Toronto and and access to the 400 series highways, according to police.

In another effort to combat the rising tide of human trafficking Durham police alongwith their couterparts in Halton, Hamilton and Peel joined forces in an Ontario-wide human trafficking intelligence network last year. The network arrested 28 people on nearly 240 charges in its first year.

Anyone with information about any human trafficking case can call Detective Constable Dave Heron of the DRPS Human Trafficking Unit at 1-888-579-1520 ext. 5600.

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