Toronto father charged with human trafficking
The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, July 1, 2010 12:11PM EDT
TORONTO - A Toronto father of two described by his wife as a quiet family man is one of five brothers accused of luring Ukrainian workers to the U.S. where they allegedly cleaned stores as slave labour.
Svetlana Churuk, wife of Yaroslav Churuk says she was stunned when police raided her home and took her husband away Wednesday.
The woman says she has no idea why her husband, a plumber who spends his evenings watching their two children while she works the night shift, was arrested.
Svetlana who was still in shock when contacted by The Canadian Press, said her husband is a good man.
"He's quiet, always helpful," she said while taking a deep breath to gain her composure.
"He's good, I have no problem with him. I can't complain about him," she said.
Yaroslav, 41, and his brother Mykhaylo Botsvynyuk were both arrested in Toronto.
Churuk said Yaroslav's last name is different from his brothers because he changed it to his mother's name years ago.
She said she cannot guess why her husband and his brother Mykhaylo could be accused of working together in a crime, because the two had not spoken "for a while."
Two other brothers, Omelyan and Stepan Botsvynyuk were arrested in Germany and Philadelphia respectively.
A warrant has been issued for a fifth, Dmytro Botsvynyuk, but Ukrainian police are not required to seek his arrest because the U.S. has no extradition treaty with Ukraine.
The brothers are accused of operating a human trafficking ring, and using false passports to smuggle Ukrainian migrants to the United States, and forcing them to work as cleaning crews in large chain stores and offices with little or no pay.
Court documents show the Botsvynyuk brothers are accused of promising jobs paying up to $500 a month and free room and board, but instead paid crews little or nothing for 16-hour days.
The documents say the men lured about 30 victims from Ukraine from 2000 to 2007, smuggled them to Philadelphia through Mexico, and used or threatened physical and sexual violence if they resisted or tried to escape.
The indictment claims Mykhaylo Botsvynyuk was based in Ukraine, and arranged travel documents and plane tickets for workers. It accuses Churuk of intimidating and threatening workers in Philadelphia to maintain their labour.
Svetlana Churuk said she is concerned for his health because he has been having heart problems, which doctors are unable to diagnose.
Churuk said their two children are in Ukraine on holiday, and she doesn't know what to tell them about their father's arrest because they are too young.
An overseas tip sparked the investigation in 2005, but authorities said they had to overcome language and trust barriers as they worked with victims. The group includes young Ukrainian men desperate for work after finishing military service and a woman who was told her young daughter would be forced into prostitution in Ukraine if she fled, the FBI said. About eight victims are now co-operating.
With files from the Associated Press