It was an isolated life devoid of social contact - save for the 15-hour days they spent having sex with a string of customers.
Six days a week, they were shuttled from their high-rise apartment, where up to seven women were packed into three-bedrooms, to their jobs at a glitzy massage parlor located on a commercial strip in nearby, fashionable Markham.
Lured from Thailand and Malaysia by the promise of money and dreams of prosperity, they came by the dozens - women like 20-year-old Ada and 36-year-old Yuki.
Slight and pretty, Ada explained Friday why she came to Canada: “Want to come here, make good money. Help mama, papa.”
Yuki, with auburn hair and tired eyes, nodded in agreement: “Yes, then go home.”
Instead, authorities say they faced months or even years of virtual imprisonment, being forced to work as prostitutes to pay off “immigration” debts of up to $40,000 each in brothels and massage parlors that catered to an upscale Asian clientele.
Authorities said Ada and Yuki are among the victims of an international sex-trafficking ring that recruited and funneled young women from Southeast Asia to work in North America’s sex circuit.
In a series of carefully orchestrated raids on Friday and in San Jose, Calif., Wednesday, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service arrested 30 people and filed some 750 charges of prostitution and illegal immigration, marking an end to an 11-month-long investigation into what they consider a sophisticated organized crime syndicate with tentacles in other cities and countries. Police still have warrants for 16 others in Toronto, and arrests were expected in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Authorities believe women - poor, uneducated or desperate - were recruited in Asia, shuttled through Vancouver on visitors’ visas and then placed in brothels in Vancouver, Toronto, San Jose and Los Angeles. In Toronto, the women ranged in age from 16 to 36. And they had come - some knowing what type of jobs awaited, some who didn’t - hoping to find a piece of their dream.
Arrested with 22 others, booked and then released on their own recognizance, the two women had fled Thursday from the blinding flash lights of cameras, grabbing a taxi to the only place they knew in Toronto.
Two days after the raid, they were back on the doorstep of their apartment in a 21-story condominium high-rise - locked outside.
With their keys confiscated by police, the two were patiently waiting for the unlikely return of alleged co-ringleader, “Judy” Wing Han Tam, 25, who was sitting in a detention center in West Toronto. The other suspected madam, 33-year-old “Kitty” Wai Hing Chu, was also being held without bond.
Approached by a reporter, the two confessed in halting English they didn’t know what else to do.
“We have nowhere else to go,” confided Yuki. “We not eat, not shower, nothing.”
Dressed in the same clothes she had on the day police broke into the apartment - black velvet tank top, sky-blue cotton pants and golden sandals, Yuki clutched at the only valuable possession she had - a short, gray fur coat.
Clad in a navy blue blazer and tan slacks, and black high-heeled sandals, Ada explained that she was the oldest of five children. She left Bangkok only three weeks ago, hoping to find work and make “good money.”
Yuki explained that she and her husband had lived in extreme poverty so she left him behind in Thailand three months ago and came to Canada to earn enough money so they could start a new life. “I come here because I want make money, buy house in Thailand - and change jobs. I want have a baby.” Both admitted they had worked in massage parlors in Thailand, Ada since she was 18, and Yuki since she was 26.
Police say all the women will probably be deported once criminal charges on prostitution have been processed. The ringleaders are expected to face stiff prison terms.
In the meantime, the two women were getting temporary shelter assistance from Toronto police. But their future remains bleak. They have no money to return home, and they have no one to turn to but each other. But they remained defiantly optimistic.
“If she go back Thailand, I go,” said Yuki. “If she stay, I stay. We friends. We take care ourselves.”