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Area escort agency operator convicted of human trafficking

'I was truly struck by the internal courage it took all seven women to come forward,' says judge; Man initially launched Nite Candy in an office space before running it out of his home
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Editor's note: The following story contains details heard in court that may not be suitable for some readers. 

A 51-year-old Barrie man who exploited sex workers connected to his escort service has been found guilty of human trafficking, sexual assault and a host of other sex-related charges.

Mark Taylor initially launched Nite Candy in an office space with a partner, but eventually took over the business and ran it out of his east-end home, where he was raising a child on his own.

After finding him guilty of 20 charges including human trafficking, sexual assault, benefiting from sexual services, and procuring a person to provide sexual services, Justice Annette Casullo felt compelled to make a statement.

“I was truly struck by the internal courage it took all seven women to come forward,” the Ontario Superior Court judge told the court Tuesday. “Not one of the complainants shied away from speaking the truth.”

While not perfect witnesses, she added, each wore her imperfections bravely.

Casullo spent most of the day reviewing evidence heard during the trial, which was held last spring and wrapped up in August.

One of the women wanting to extract herself from the sex trade reported the operation to Crime Stoppers and eventually gave a statement to police. A significant investigation was then launched involving an undercover officer and another focusing on documents and records such as phone text messages.

Most of the women, whom the judge found to be credible, testified turning to the business out of desperation, often to support a drug habit. One was surprised to learn she wasn’t simply a date for hire, but that the job was to perform sex for paying clients.

A publication ban prohibits the use of the women’s names.

The business operated 24/7 using dispatchers and drivers. The women would be picked up and taken to “the call,” but would never be told in advance where they were being taken.

They were told to spend a full hour with the client and, if they left early, they would be scolded or given the less desirable calls, which could involve numerous men, a party situation in which they were expected to do drugs, addicts, or someone the women suspected of having a sexually transmitted disease.

The women were expected to take the money from the clients and give cuts to the driver, who waited in the car during the call, and to Taylor. The dispatchers would receive a base pay of $100 per shift, with bonuses depending on the number of calls they handled.

If a credit card was used, the women would receive their pay from Taylor.

In Taylor, the judge’s review painted a picture of a man who demanded sexual services from women who needed more work or hoped to land the better clients where they felt safer and weren’t made to perform acts with which they felt uncomfortable.

Performing sex with him was also an interviewing technique he had used on some of the women. The women’s rate of pay was dependent on how he rated them.

On two occasions, the judge found, he forced himself on them — once as one of the victims slept.

Sometimes he would pay for the services. One woman testified she provided sex in exchange for drugs she would receive from Taylor to feed her out-of-control drug habit.

She found that Taylor hired the sex workers, took pictures of them, advertised the service, chose their ranks and encouraged them to be at his home. In the case of one woman, he encouraged the cycle of drug abuse.

There was evidence that if women didn’t do what they wanted, he threatened to reveal their occupations to family members and suggested their children could be taken away. The result, she said, was a culture of physical and psychological fear.

Taylor’s lawyer is expected to argue the decision took too long, and is bringing a motion March 16 to the judge. A date for sentencing hasn’t been set.