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Teachers among those charged in underage prostitution investigation

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Days after four people were charged in an underage prostitution investigation, it's been learned that two of the accused are reportedly employed by the University of Windsor and a high school in Essex.

As previously reported by CTV News Windsor on May 9, last month members of the WPS Morality Unit and OPP Intelligence-Led Joint Forces Strategy Anti Human Trafficking Unit teamed up to conduct an undercover prostitution operation in Windsor.

The officers used a popular website to communicate with suspects who were allegedly attempting to offer money to an underage girl in exchange for sexual acts.

In online conversations, police said the suspects negotiated a specific price with an undercover officer posing as a 16-year-old girl and then agreed to meet at a location to engage in sexual activities.

When the suspects arrived at the designated meeting spot, they were arrested by police.

As a result of the investigation, the following individuals have each been charged with obtaining sexual services from a person under 18 years of age:

  • Wissam Charaf, 28, of Windsor
  • Stephen Merner, 59, no fixed address
  • James Pernal, 46, of Essex
  • Jianwen Yang, 61, of Windsor

As reported Sunday by AM800 News, two of the four suspects charged in the investigation are a professor at the University of Windsor while the second is a teacher at an Essex high school.

A statement from the University of Windsor says:

"Dr. Jianwen Yang is a faculty member. The University became aware of the charges against Dr. Yang yesterday with the announcement by Windsor Police Services. As a result of this news and the nature of the charges, Dr. Yang has been placed on leave as an interim measure. The University understands this is a criminal matter with Windsor Police Services. The safety and wellness of the University community is of utmost importance. Wellness supports are available to the community as needed - Student Resources and Employee Resources."

According to AM800 News, the Ontario College was also notified of the arrest of James Pernal, a teacher at Essex District High School in Essex.

In a response, the college said it is aware of the charges, but cannot comment on any investigations.

In an email sent to CTV News, the GECDSB writes: "We can’t comment on any current employee’s status.In any circumstance where an employee is accused of or charged with an illegal activity the GECDSB follows its internal processes and procedures and we cooperate fully with law enforcement agencies."

-- With files from CTV Windsor's Stefanie Masotti and AM800 News.

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