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Orillia, Ont. subcontractor faces 21 charges in human trafficking investigation

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A Simcoe County man faces 21 charges in a human labour trafficking investigation involving more than a dozen people, according to Ontario Provincial Police (OPP).

Police arrested Juan 'Jamie' Rodriguez-Miranda, 59, of Orillia, Ont., on March 15 and charged him with 11 counts of human trafficking and 10 counts of material benefits in trafficking of persons.

OPP says it launched an investigation, called Project SASSAFRAS, after receiving a tip in November 2022 that a group of people were victims of labour abuse.

The Criminal Investigation Branch, with support from the Provincial Human Trafficking Intelligence-led Joint Forces Strategy, says the accused promised the individuals a job at his subcontracting company north of Barrie, including work permits, training, housing and a salary.

"The reality was quite opposite," said OPP Det. Insp. Jane Conway.

Police allege the accused offered the workers two residences with dirty, inadequate sleeping conditions, including placing multiple people in small spaces or sharing a bed.

Ontario Provincial Police supply an image of the poor living conditions at a residence where alleged victims of human trafficking were staying in Orillia, Ont. (OPP)

"Food provided to the victims as part of the arrangements was inadequately rationed," added Conway.

Investigators say the workers received partial or no payment and claim the accused threatened they would be arrested or deported if they went to the authorities. Police say he also threatened the safety of their families.

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Fifteen people, aged 21 to 54, are now being supported through the OPP IJFS Victim Specialist and Simcoe Muskoka and Toronto Victims' Services.

"This labour human trafficking investigation began with a complaint and ended with 15 victims being taken out of an inhumane situation," said Conway.

OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique commended the investigation in a release on Friday. "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."

The accused remains in custody pending a bail hearing.

Police say they expect more victims will come forward as the investigation continues.

Investigators ask anyone who hired JJUL'S Enterprises Inc. in the last few months to speak with the police by calling 1-888-310-1122.

The allegations against the accused have not been tested in court.

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