The head of what's been called the largest human trafficking ring in Canada's history was given the toughest-ever penalty for that crime.

Ferenc Domotor Sr., 42, was sentenced Tuesday to nine years in jail for his role in a family operation that lured victims to Canada with the promise of a better life, then forced them into labour and brutal living conditions.

With credit and time served, the penalty totals 4 1/2 years.

The Crown was seeking a nine-year sentence for Domotor Sr., Hamilton Spectator reporter Nicole O'Reilley told CTV News Channel earlier in the day.

Domotor had pleaded guilty to being part of a criminal organization, conspiracy to commit human trafficking and coercing victims to mislead immigration officials.

Domotor's wife Gyongyi and son Ferenc Domotor Jr., 21, pleaded guilty to similar charges. Ferenc Jr. was handed a five-year sentence -- 16 months with credit and time served -- while Gyongyi was freed after serving time.

His brother Gyula has been sentenced to 7 1/2 years in prison for his involvement in the ring, which was the longest penalty for the crime in Canadian history before Tuesday's announcement.

Victims of the operation, primarily impoverished men from Domotor's home country of Hungary, were brought to Canada with the promise of easier lives and steady employment.

Upon arrival, the victims were forced to work without pay, pressured to falsely claim refugee status and kept in their captor's basement with one meal a day.

Police launched a 10-month investigation, dubbed "Project OPAPA," in December 2009 when one of the men contacted authorities.

The RCMP's immigration and passport department likened the ring to "modern-day slavery" when charges were laid in 2010.

Nineteen victims have come forward to police, but authorities suspect there may be more, O'Reilley said.