The sister of one of the four Vancouver Island residents charged with human trafficking-related offences in Saskatchewan last month says she believes her brother got caught up with the wrong crowd.
Trish Kelly says her younger brother, Shawn Alexander Kelly, 23, had been planning to drive to Ontario to live with his mother, but would give his roommates, 19-year-old twins Seyed Kourosh Miralinaghi and Seyed Kamran Miralinaghi, and their mother, Shermineh Ziaee, 36, a ride to Montreal first.
“My brother was getting tired of [living] down here and he missed our family up in Ontario,” says Kelly, adding that her brother had been thinking about moving for months.
Shawn, the brothers and their mother were arrested on Jan. 28 in Swift Current, Sask., on suspicion of human trafficking after they were stopped for speeding on Highway 1 in a tight group. Upon pulling the three vehicles over, police found two underage girls, neither of whom had identification, in the back seat of separate vehicles with tinted windows.
|Shermineh Sheri Ziaee was arrested with her twin 19-year-old sons, Seyed Kourosh Miralinaghi and Seyed Kamran Miralinaghi and Shawn Alexander Kelly on Jan. 28 in Swift Current, Sask. and charged with human trafficking related offences. (Shermineh Sheri Ziaee/Facebook)|
The twins remain in custody in Saskatchewan, but Ziaee returned to Greater Victoria on Feb. 6 after being released on $1,000 bail. The following day, she told Black Press Media in a brief interview outside her home that she was innocent and that they had been travelling to Montreal when they were arrested.
Shawn Kelly was also released on a promise to appear but was arrested again on a weapons breach. According to his sister, he had been staying in Saskatchewan with their uncle, who owns a hunting gun and had forgotten to lock the safe when police searched the home following his arrest.
“It’s not like he had a gun and was going to use it. It was just in the house,” Trish Kelly says.
Shawn and his sister were born in Ontario and moved to Victoria with their father when they were young. Shortly after their arrival, the siblings were put into foster care. A couple of years ago, their father died from a heroin overdose, Kelly says, which is why Shawn does not use drugs or alcohol.
Since the news came out that her brother had been charged, Kelly says she has been anxious — even experiencing panic attacks — due to hateful comments posted on social media.
“People need to understand that it’s hard for his family to be dealing with this, knowing that he could have done this,” she says. “He could not have done this … Shawn’s not the monster everyone thinks he is.”