Skip to main content

Human trafficking victims forced to live in cold basement with no running water, Ontario police say

Four Ontario residents are facing charges linked to a human trafficking investigation where police allege the victims were forced to pay for their own accommodations in an accused's basement.

Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) say three victims were lured with the promise of a good-paying job and work permits, which police learned about after searches at locations in Simcoe County and the Greater Toronto Area last week.

Project Foxtrot was launched in mid-February after police say officers received information of suspected labour trafficking involving exploiting foreign nationals from Mexico.

Police say the victims were hired through a subcontractor to work at various recycling facilities in Sault Ste. Marie, North Bay, Red Deer in Alberta, and Levis in Quebec.

The facilities were not aware the workers were victims of human trafficking and have been cooperating with the investigation, police say.

The victims, three men between 27 and 42 years old, were housed in one of the accused's basements in Tottenham, Ont., which police say was cold and had no running water. They added the men were expected to sleep on an air mattress they had to purchase themselves.

OPP says the three men feared they couldn't leave and were coerced to stay and allege the accommodations were paid for out of the victims' wages, which was less than promised.

"This is modern-day slavery in its worst form," said OPP Det. Insp. Jordan Whitesell.

Officers arrested and charged two Simcoe County residents, Francisco Eluid Antionio-Olvera, 33, and Floriberta Sarmiento, 27.

Two others, Miroslaw Blachuta, 72, of Etobicoke, and Mikhael Akin, 53, of Halton, are also charged in the human trafficking investigation.

"Project Foxtrot demonstrates the exploitation of human trafficking victims in plain sight and the necessity of the IJFS (Intelligence-led Joint Forces Strategy) and its partners to help unmask this crime. It serves as a stark reminder that human trafficking remains a largely clandestine and complex crime that easily goes unnoticed.

We must come together to educate ourselves, recognize the signs, empower survivors and provide hope to victims to combat this hidden threat. We cannot fight this alone," stated OPP Det. Insp. Jordan Whitesell.

Provincial police say they continue to investigate to determine if there are more victims. They ask anyone in a similar situation to come forward.

The OPP says members from various police services, including Barrie, Kingston, Ottawa, Sudbury, Quebec, and York Region, supported the investigation, along with the Canadian Border Services Agency and the Ministry of Labour. Top Stories

Stay Connected