Three teenage girls on Monday pleaded not guilty to forcing fellow suburban teens, one as young as 13, into prostitution through intimidation and blackmail in Canada's capital city.
Police say the trio, who were 15-16 years old when they were arrested last June, acted on their own without adult guidance in operating a prostitution ring from a home in a middle-class neighborhood of Ottawa.
The victims had been lured through social media to the residence, abducted and delivered up to adult clients, authorities allege.
The accused, who sat quietly in court for the start of the proceedings with hands folded on their lap, face 74 charges in total, including human trafficking and forcible confinement, making and distributing child pornography, assault and sexual assault, uttering threats and theft.
The court heard that most of the victims were befriended on Facebook, with phrases such as: "You sound like a chill girl. How old are you? We should chill together."
They were invited to "hang out" with the accused, the prosecutor said, encouraged or forced to take drugs, and told they would become escorts. If they refused, they were threatened with violence and blackmail.
One victim was forced kicking and screaming into a john's car at a gas station. She escaped but was quickly caught and dragged back. Another's clothes were ripped off in the basement of a house and she was photographed in the nude.
The youngest victim's mother dropped off her daughter at the home of one of the accused for a sleepover. The girl returned home distraught the next day, wearing makeup, heels and a trenchcoat that didn't belong to her.
The Crown said one of the accused would send photographs of a new recruit to prospective johns from her cellphone, and if they agreed, she would send the girl by taxi to the man's home to sell sex.
Police eventually broke up the alleged prostitution ring last June after one of the victims complained to her mother, who informed authorities.
A fourth girl also faces charges in the case, but her role in the affair has not yet been made clear. She, along with several johns, are listed as witnesses for the prosecution.
The trial is expected to last four weeks.
The names of the accused and their alleged victims cannot be released under Canadian law.