‘Ottawa’ House Arrest for Man who Ran Ottawa Brothels
A man who brought young women to Canada from Asia to exploit them as prostitutes in his Ottawa brothels has been sentenced to seven months of house arrest.
Zhao Liu would recruit women from China and Japan and bring them to Ottawa on visitor permits only to put them to work in one of three brothels he ran out of a high-end condominium on York Street in the ByWard Market or at houses on Clyde Avenue and Merivale Road, a court heard.
The 35-year-old Canadian citizen admitted in court to setting the women up in the properties he rented, then advertising on the website Backpage.com. He would keep 40 per cent of the money they earned in exchange for providing the location, supplies and advertising, according to the women who were working for him.
In sentencing Liu on Monday, Ontario Court Justice Vincent Clifford said Liu was preying on the vulnerable in a “calculated and organized way.”
“You have demonstrated a pattern of behaviour where you are preying upon the vulnerability of people who want to come to Canada,” the judge said.
“They are being exploited, taken advantage of,” added Clifford. “You are benefitting from their exploitation.”
Liu was arrested in September 2015 after Ottawa police raids on the Merivale Road house and York Street condo. Three women were located at the Merivale Road house, and another on York Street. Police also seized $14,000 in cash from Liu’s home on Charles Street in New Edinburgh. A third brothel on Clyde Avenue had already been shut down following an earlier raid by the human-trafficking unit before Liu opened the Merivale Road location.
It was the second time Liu had been arrested for allegedly running a prostitution ring. An earlier case against him in 2013 fell apart due to problems with the evidence, court heard, although he was caught breaching his release conditions by posting new advertisements for sexual services while out on bail.
This time Liu wasn’t so lucky, pleading guilty to three counts each of possession of the proceeds of crime and advertising an offer to provide sexual services on Backpage.com. Liu was initially facing 76 charges involving 17 women that filled seven pages of the court docket, but 70 of those charges were withdrawn following his plea.
A prosecutor said the women Liu recruited have since left Canada. Attempting to prove the allegations would have required numerous lengthy legal applications to have their evidence admitted in court, the Crown said.
Following the completion of the seven months of house arrest, Liu will remain on a nightly curfew for five months.
Liu’s conditional sentence of house arrest and curfew comes after he served a little more than six months in the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre following his arrest. He was given a day-and-a-half credit for each day in custody, resulting in the equivalent of 10 months in jail.
Liu was also sentenced to 18 months of probation, which includes similar terms to his conditional sentence. Those conditions include not to be involved in prostitution-related activity, not attending massage parlours or strip clubs, and staying off websites where prostitution-related activity is advertised.
Half of the $14,000 that was seized was forfeited to the court; Liu was also ordered to pay $1,200 in victim surcharges.
Liu, who was born in China but has been in Canada for the past 15 years, doesn’t currently have a job but has family money in China, said lawyer Richard Addelman. Liu now plans to go to school to improve his English, court heard.
Addelman said he believes Liu finally “gets it” after avoiding a jail sentence.
“It was a business venture which was illegal and he’s going to get punished for it at this point,” Addelman said.