Hours after an an Alberta-wide arrest warrant was issued for an Edmonton man accused of forcing his victims into sex trafficking through coercion and violence, he is in custody.
Felicien Mufuta, 37, was arrested by Edmonton police on Wednesday morning, the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT) Human Trafficking and Exploitation unit said Wednesday.
Staff Sgt. Lance Parker, who oversees ALERT’s human trafficking and exploitation unit, announced Mufuta’s arrest during a news conference.
Parker said he was informed of the arrest moments before the news conference began.
“We were able to locate Mr. Mufuta returning to his residence and he is currently under arrest and in custody,” he said.
“I can tell you it brings a lot of relief to our survivor.”
Mufuta is facing charges including trafficking in persons, sexual assault, procuring, advertising sexual services, benefiting from trafficking and breach of release conditions.
An investigation began in February after a woman contacted Edmonton police and told them she was being forced to work in the sex trade. She said she had been sexually assaulted by the accused.
Parker said investigators believe the suspect preyed on some of society’s “most vulnerable people,” controlling them through violence and withholding their identity documents.
“A lot of these guys prey on our vulnerable communities and victims that are going through some troubled times,” he said.
“Once they get these victims, they maintain their relationship with them either through violence or by withholding certain documents so they are unable to leave without these documents.”
Parker credited the woman who originally came forward to police for her strength and bravery. She helped ensure other women will not fall prey to her abuser, he said.
Investigators believe there may be more victims and Parker encouraged others to come forward.
“Just from what I’ve seen in this investigation, I don’t think this was a moment of opportunity for this person,” he said. “I think that there other victims.
“I strongly believe that this wasn’t just one person that this gentleman was dealing with. I believe here are other survivors out there.”
Officers first tried to arrest Mufuta last month. They searched a south Edmonton home on March 4 but didn’t find him, ALERT said.
The woman who first reported Mufuta to police is receiving support and access to specialized care, ALERT said.