Project FOXTROT Uncovers Labor Exploitation of Mexican Nationals in Canada
ORILLIA – NEWS – Detective Inspector Jordan Whitesell, OPP IJFS Lead, affirmed, “Project Foxtrot showcases the often overlooked exploitation of human trafficking victims and the crucial role of IJFS and its partners in uncovering this crime. We need to come together to educate ourselves, identify the signs, support survivors, and offer hope to victims. We cannot fight this alone.”
In a significant breakthrough in a labor human trafficking investigation, Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) have apprehended four individuals tied to operations across Ontario, Alberta, and Quebec.
The investigative initiative, named Project FOXTROT, was launched on February 13, 2023, when the OPP was tipped off about suspected labor trafficking involving Mexican nationals. The victims had been enticed online with promises of work permits and lucrative employment opportunities in Canada.
The individuals were exploited at various recycling facilities located in Red Deer (Alberta), North Bay (Ontario), Sault Ste Marie (Ontario), and Levis (Quebec). They were lodged in several short-term rentals across Canada and even in the basement of one accused person in Simcoe County. To compound their exploitation, accommodation costs were deducted from their already reduced wages.
On May 16, 2023, a collaborative effort by the Provincial Human Trafficking Intelligence-led Joint Forces Strategy (IJFS), including members from OPP, Anishnibek Police Service, Toronto Police Service, Peel Regional Police, and Halton Regional Police Service, led to the execution of search warrants at numerous locations in Simcoe County and the Greater Toronto Area.
As a result of the coordinated operation, four individuals were arrested and charged on May 16, 2023. They are Miroslaw BLACHUTA, 72, of Etobicoke, Francisco Eluid ANTIONIO-OLVERA, 33, of Simcoe County, Mikhael AKIN, 53, of Halton, and Floriberta SARMIENTO, 27, also of Simcoe County.
The victims, three men ranging from 27 to 42 years old, have been offered services through the OPP IJFS Victim Specialist and FCJ Refugee Centre.
The success of Project FOXTROT was underpinned by the support from several IJFS partner agencies, including Barrie Police Service, Kingston Police, Ottawa Police Service, Greater Sudbury Police Service, Quebec City Police Service, York Regional Police, Durham Regional Police Service, Niagara Regional Police Service, and Waterloo Regional Police Service. Assistance was also provided by the Canada Border Services Agency and the Ministry of Labour.
Those being trafficked or anyone who suspects trafficking activities should contact local police. The Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking provides resources and a 24/7 national hotline at 1-833-900-1010.
Since its establishment on March 6, 2020, the IJFS, comprising full-time investigators and analysts assigned to participating police agencies across Ontario, has enhanced policing capacity. It aids in identifying, investigating, and disrupting multi-jurisdictional human trafficking organizations operating within Ontario.