KAWARTHA LAKES-The OPP has laid 21 charges against an Orillia resident who police believe promised people good-paying jobs but instead, they became the victims of labour abuse.
Fifteen Mexican citizens were identified as victims and provided support.
‘”The Consulate General dispensed support to the presumed victims in terms of communication, interpretation and information about their human rights. We remain attentive to the evolution of the investigation and to the corresponding sanctions to be determined by the judicial authorities. The consular office joins the call of the OPP to our migrant communities to denounce this kind of inhumane practices, especially if they are directly affected by these contemporary and unacceptable forms of slavery.” explained Mexican Consulate General in Toronto
The investigation, named Project SASSAFRAS, began on November 21, 2022, when the OPP received a tip that a group of individuals were alleged to be victims of labour abuse. The Criminal Investigation Branch, with support from the Provincial Human Trafficking Intelligence-led Joint Forces Strategy (IJFS), allege that the accused promised several individuals a job at his subcontracting company in Orillia. The workers were promised work permits, training, housing and a good salary according to police.
“The coordinated response displayed by our members and partners was integral to this labour human trafficking investigation. Thanks to their collaborative determination and diligence, 15 victims were supported and ultimately removed from an exploitative situation. We continue to ask the public to remain vigilant and to report any human trafficking to police to help us hold traffickers responsible.” said OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique.
Over a four-month investigation, Police say they learned that the victims were promised work at a subcontracting company in Orillia. They were promised work permits, training, housing and a good salary but police say the reality was quite opposite. Two residences were offered to the workers but according to police the sleeping conditions were dirty and inadequate, with multiple individuals sleeping in small spaces or sharing a bed. Officers allege the workers received partial or, in some cases, no payment for their work and were threatened with arrest or separation if they went to authorities.
As a result of the investigation 59-year-old Juan “Jamie” Rodriguez-Miranda of Orillia, was arrested on March 15, 2023, and charged with 11 counts of human trafficking of persons, as per Section 279.01 of the Criminal Code, and 10 counts of material benefits in trafficking of persons, as per Section 279.02 of the Criminal Code.
The accused remains in custody pending a bail hearing.
Fifteen victims, ranging from 21 to 54 years old, were identified. The victims remain supported through the OPP IJFS Victim Specialist and Simcoe Muskoka and Toronto Victims’ Services. Assistance was also provided by the Ministry of Labour, the Mexican Consulate, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC), the Neighbourhood Organization, and AMIGRAR Immigration Consulting.
The investigation remains ongoing and it is expected that there are more victims who have yet to come forward.
If you suspect or are aware of any human trafficking activity, call your local police. The Mexican Consulate has an emergency number available at 647-448-1329 and the Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking has resources available for victims and survivors of human trafficking on their website at canadiancentretoendhumantraffi