Six Toronto Arrests in Child Exploit Operation
Operation H was launched in October 2019 by New Zealand’s Digital Exploitation (DIA) team following an alert from an electronic service provider who had discovered tens of thousands of suspect accounts using the platform to share some of the most horrific and devastating child sexual abuse material online.
Over a 24-month period, the DIA investigators coordinated an international team who identified users globally.
The shared information with Toronto Police led to the arrest of six men.
The operation also led to the arrest of 43 individuals based in New Zealand, 724 cases investigated globally and 136 children – none in Canada -- safeguarded internationally.
Deputy Chief Myron Demkiw said the internet has allowed offenders to exploit and abuse children in their homes, at any time, anywhere in the world and any effort at combatting these crimes requires law enforcement at all levels, in every jurisdiction, to work seamlessly.
“Everyone has a responsibility to ensure the safety of our children and the Toronto Police Service is committed to doing its part to support this global effort,” he said, at a media conference at police headquarters on March 2.
Demkiw said the collaboration displayed through Operation H is standard.
“It is these international partnerships that allow us to arrest offenders and rescue children,” he pointed out. “But the protection of society’s most vulnerable is everyone’s responsibility. If you come across any child sexual abuse material on the internet, report it. You can call Crime Stoppers or you can file a report on Cybertip.ca, the online reporting tool operated by our partners with the Canadian Centre for Child Protection. This is also a unique resource for education and prevention tips for children and adults to learn the signs of online exploitation.”
The Deputy Chief also encouraged anyone who uses sexual abuse material online or is at risk of offending sexually against a child to seek help.
Six men arrested by Toronto Child Exploitation investigators during Operation H:
- On July 28, 2020, Chris Green, 41, of Toronto, was charged with two counts of possessing child pornography, two counts of access to child pornography and failing to comply with probation. He made a court appearance on February 22.
- On August 17, 2020, Hugo Molina-Macias, 40, of Toronto, was charged with two counts of child pornography possession, three counts of making available child pornography and two counts of making child pornography. His trial begins on March 4.
- On October 1, 2020, Bryan Johnson, 41, of Toronto, was charged with possession of and access to child pornography, and voyeurism. A search warrant uncovered videos taken on a cell phone that showed him surreptitiously recording young female passengers on public transit and within public transit facilities. He was convicted and sentenced on September 21, 2021.
- On October 14, 2020, Gadi Braude, 31, of Toronto, was charged with possession of and access to child pornography. He is scheduled to appear in court on March 18.
- On October 28, 2020, Dustin Leek, 36, of Toronto, was charged with possession of and access to child pornography. His next court appearance is on March 18.
- One man was arrested in June 2020 on an unrelated matter and faced charges relating to Operation H. He is now deceased and no further information will be disclosed.
Inspector Justin Vander Heyden of the Sex Crimes Unit said the investigation is ongoing.
“We will continue to pursue investigative leads in relation to Operation H and will be working diligently with law enforcement partners around the world to arrest offenders and rescue children,” he said. “If anyone is up to this job, it is our investigators who work in the Toronto Police Service’s Child Exploitation Section. These officers are some of the best trained and most talented in the world. But they do not do this work alone and we are grateful for the co-operation and support we have received from our partners in New Zealand, Interpol, Europol, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Vancouver Police Department, among others.”
Vander Heyden also thanked his dedicated team members who have contributed to the investigation in the last two years.
“Reviewing the conceivably large volume of seized digital evidence has been some of the most difficult work these investigators have ever done,” he said. “I want to take a moment to recognize the potential impacts on the investigators. While incomparable to the victims’ traumatic experiences, the impacts on consuming vast quantities of traumatic digital evidence highlights what can be called the ‘mobility of trauma.’ These vicarious experiences have been shown to have life-altering effects on members of law enforcement, legal counsel and the judiciary who must review and assess them during court proceedings. To that end, using a trauma-informed approach, we have proactively supported our officers’ wellness throughout this time and we will continue to do so.”
Last year, the TPS Exploitation Section worked on 1,900 occurrences.
“Those were all Toronto-based,” said Vander Heyden. “Some of them we cleared, some of them we investigated and many of them we charged.”