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4 Barrie residents charged in labour human-trafficking investigation: police

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WATCH ABOVE: Forty-three victims of human trafficking were freed in February by police in Ontario. While police say it's the first time they've seen a labour-trafficking operation of this size in Barrie, experts insist the issue is not new in Canada – Feb 14, 2019

Four Barrie residents are facing criminal and immigration-related charges in connection to a labour human-trafficking investigation that included 43 victims, police say.

Patricia Zuniga Rojas Senior, 54, Kevin Kielty, 51, Patricia Camacho Zuniga Junior, 24, and Ashley Camacho Zuniga, 19, are being charged with trafficking persons, trafficking for material benefit and employing a foreign national without authorization, officers say.

READ MORE: Andrew Scheer lays out plan to combat human trafficking at stop in Aylmer, Ont.

According to police, the four are also being charged with possession of property obtained by crime and participation in activities of a criminal organization.

The charges relate to the accused individuals’ involvement in the company RTL Services of Barrie, which has been alleged to provide foreign nationals as forced labour to a number of businesses since 2015, police say.

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In February 2019, officers executed a search warrant in Barrie and Wasaga Beach, and found 43 mostly male victims, ranging from 20 to 46, according to police.

WATCH: Dozens of Mexican workers freed after labour human trafficking

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Dozens of Mexican workers freed after labour human trafficking – Feb 11, 2019

The investigation, which has been going on since last year, was looking at information that suggested that Mexican-born workers were being trafficked and defrauded by a Barrie cleaning company.

The 43 victims were brought to Canada under the pretense of being in the country for educational purposes or for the promise of a work permit and potential permanent residency, police say.

The victims initially paid the traffickers large amounts of money to be transported from their home country to Canada.

READ MORE: 2 Brampton men charged in London child trafficking probe; 1 remains at large: police

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Police said that once the 43 victims arrived in Canada, they were made to live in awful conditions in Barrie and Wasaga Beach, and were forcefully transported to work in Collingwood, Innisfil, Oro-Medonte and Cornwall.

According to police, the traffickers controlled wages and charged the victims fees for accommodations and transportation.

When officers discovered the victims, they were brought to safety, re-housed and given legal employment.

READ MORE: ‘Modern day slavery’: Why human trafficking often flies under the radar in Canada

The investigation is being conducted by the Barrie Police Service, the OPP and the Canada Border Services Agency.

The accused are scheduled to appear before the Ontario Court of Justice in Barrie on July 3.

Anyone with information on this case can contact police at humantrafficking@barriepolice.ca, 705-725-7025, Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or leave an anonymous tip online.

WATCH: ‘I went to bed a slave, woke up a free man’: Barrie human-trafficking victim

Click to play video: '‘I went to bed a slave, woke up a free man’: Barrie human trafficking victim' ‘I went to bed a slave, woke up a free man’: Barrie human trafficking victim
‘I went to bed a slave, woke up a free man’: Barrie human trafficking victim – Feb 11, 2019

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