The heartbreaking words of two young women describing how they were dehumanized, exploited and physically abused by a Toronto pimp were shared Friday by a judge who must now decide their punishment.

Simon Ho-On, 24, took the unusual step of pleading guilty last January to six human-trafficking-related offenses linked to two victims, one whom he met when he was 21 and attending the University of Toronto. Friday was his sentencing hearing.

In an agreed statement of facts, Ho-On admitted to forcing them into the sex trade, pocketing the money, and controlling them by supplying them with illicit drugs, knowing they were struggling with drug addiction. He took their photos and posted them on websites advertising sexual services and convinced them to get his nickname tattooed on their bodies. On several occasions, when he got angry, he would hit them.

“I have been suicidal and have hurt myself physically because I feel worthless and hate myself and my body,” the former student, who dropped out of school when she started “working” for Ho-On, wrote in an impact statement. of victim read. Friday by Crown Counsel Monica Gharabaway.

“I spent years trying to repair the damage you caused to become the strong woman I am today,” the other victim, now 22, wrote. Her identities are protected by a publication ban.

Gharabaway, a member of Ontario’s human trafficking prosecution team, told Superior Court Judge Michael Quigley that he is seeking a 10-year sentence, less time already spent in custody. She is also seeking a restitution order for $48,000, the money he earned trafficking the college student over an 11-month period.

Defense attorney Fiona McNestry suggested that a sentence in the range of five to six years was more appropriate, considering that her client had no criminal record and has been in custody for three and a half years in extremely harsh conditions during the pandemic.

In a pre-sentence report, Ho-On stated that when he became involved in this criminal activity at the age of 20, “it was during a time in my life when I had nothing to do. It was all around me; It was a norm in the city at the time, so I said why not give it a try?

McNestry explained that the reason he was “normal” was because of the company he had at the time living in a group home. Letters of support suggested she was “impressionable,” but that didn’t justify his behavior, he said.

Ho-On is prepared to seek professional advice and has tangible goals, including furthering his education and opening a tattoo parlor once he is released, he said.

He watched the proceedings Friday through large, black-framed glasses in the video room at Toronto’s East Detention Center.

Ho-On told the judge that he wanted to apologize to the victims and their loved ones.

“I am sorry for my actions that have caused you trauma and pain. This has been the biggest mistake of my life”, he said reading a paper that he took out of the pocket of his orange jumpsuit. While she wore a protective mask, the tattoos were visible on her forehead, above her nose, and on the upper part of her cheeks.

“Every night, this haunts me of what I have done to these women. I have a close relationship with my sister whom I love and care for, and I never want this to happen to her. I will seek help and rehab later down the road to get better.”

The judge thanked Ho-On for his apologies and remorse and said he would pass sentence on August 30. However, even if he receives a sentence equivalent to time served, Ho-On will remain in custody while he awaits trial in December on the charges. related to another victim.

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