Hamilton police have charged nine people in Project Links, a six-month multi-jurisdictional investigation into a child porn ring which may have involved multiple victims.
On Thursday morning, Detective Sgt. Dave Dunbar released details of the case, which started when the Hamilton Catholic Aid Society tipped off Hamilton authorities about a potential child abuse incident.
Police say a 7-year-old girl was being abused by her mother’s boyfriend. It was also discovered that the opportunity to sexually abuse a child was being advertised online through Craigslist.
In May, Hamilton police executed two search warrants for a Hamilton home and seized property including multiple electronic devices.
As a result of the seizures, the unnamed 34-year-old man faces 40 charges including sexual assault, sexual interference, making and distributing pornographic material, and invitation to sexual touching.
Project Links executed multiple search warrants and made additional arrests through police forces in Hamilton, Niagara and Waterloo. Several people, many whose names are not being released due to a court publication ban, were arrested and subsequently charged. They include:
- A 36-year-old man from Hamilton facing sexual assault, sexual interference, as well as making and possessing child porn charges
- A 50-year-old man from Hamilton charged with making, possessing, and distributing child porn. He is also charged with communicating for sexual services under the age of 18
- A 38-year-old man from Waterloo charged with sexual assault, sexual interference and making child porn
- A 48-year-old woman from Waterloo charged with sexual assault, sexual interference, as well as making and possessing child porn
- A 39-year-old woman from Hamilton is charged with failing to provide the necessities of life to a child.
- A 52-year-old man from St. Catharines charged with the intent to commit sexual interference and possession of child porn
- A 35-year-old man from Waterloo charged with making and possessing child porn
The only person named in the investigation was Geoffrey Burnet, a 48-year-old from Hamilton who has been a teacher for numerous Ontario schools and districts including Columbia International College, the Hamilton-Wentworth school district, the Upper Grand district school board and the TDSB.
The probe also uncovered an unrelated historical sexual assault allegedly involving Burnet, who was arrested and charged in September. He’s facing sexual assault, sexual interference, invitation to sexual touching, and making and possessing child pornography.
Hamilton police have also revealed that a second teenage girl, related to the 7-year-old, has come forward. Investigators believe there may be more victims.
Project Links involved information sharing with multiple agencies including U.S. Homeland security, the OPP, the Niagara Regional Police Service, and Waterloo Regional Police.