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Illegal 'spa' busted in downtown Ottawa; man charged with human trafficking

Ottawa Police Service
Ottawa Police Service

An unlicensed “touch therapy” spa in downtown Ottawa has been closed and a man arrested for human trafficking at the end of a lengthy investigation by the Ottawa Police Service Human Trafficking Unit.

The investigation was launched after several complainants came forward in May 2018, police said, which led to more alleged victims being identified.

As a result of that investigation, the Touch Therapy Spa on Somerset Street West has been closed. Its website billed it as a 24-hour, members-only spa providing the “ultimate relaxation experience.”

Juteah Preston Downey, 41, of Ottawa, also known as “Lord Downey,” was arrested Thursday and charged with assault, sexual assault, three counts of human trafficking and other prostitution-related offences.

Bylaw charges have also been issued and an unnamed person has been remanded to the custody of the Canada Border Services Agency, police said Friday.

Sgt. Damien Laflamme, head of the human trafficking unit, called human trafficking “modern-day slavery.” “Human trafficking, in a nutshell, is a labor and service provided out of fear,” he said. “In many cases, women and young girls involved in prostitution are forced into the sex trade through violence, coercion or trickery.”

Investigators believe there could be more victims in the case. Anyone with information is asked to call the Ottawa Police Service Human Trafficking Unit at 613-236-1222, ext. 5005 or 1-800-292-1168.

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