Three people have been arrested following a year-long labour-trafficking investigation that police say looked into allegations of illegal recruitment and employment of migrant workers from Guatemala.
The investigation was carried out by the London Police Service’s human-trafficking unit and began after officers say information was sent to police in September 2018.
According to police, the information concerned three Londoners who reportedly operated a recruitment business to match migrant workers with local employers. The three people worked at the business, called Bethesda Agricultural Enterprises Inc., between 2015 and 2017, police say.
According to police, people associated with Bethesda posed as immigration lawyers and property owners during their alleged recruitment of migrant workers from South America.
When workers arrived in Canada, police say they would hand over their passports to the individual allegedly posing as a lawyer, believing that person had obtained work permits for them.
The workers were housed at a number of homes throughout London, police say. According to police, one home housed up to 12 people, while another allegedly had its water and electricity shut off for a period of time.
Police described the conditions in the homes as “deplorable.” They also allege migrant workers were threatened with deportation and told that police would be called if they did not follow the house rules set up by those responsible for their employment.
All three Londoners charged in the investigation were arrested last week, police said.
Jose Alfredo Callejas, 62, and Karin Yadira Callejas, 35, were arrested on Wednesday, Dec. 18. Nathan Stewart Brown, 33, turned himself in the following day, police say.
Brown faces three human-trafficking-related offences. The other two accused have been jointly charged with seven human-trafficking-related offences, along with seven counts of withholding or destroying documents in relation to human trafficking.
The accused have been released from custody and are set to appear in court on Feb. 20, 2020.
The year-long investigation involved communication with Canada Border Services Agency, OPP and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, London police say.
Seven victims have also been identified in the case. Police say they were from Guatemala but currently reside in Ontario.
Investigators believe there may be more victims and are asking anyone with information to contact London police at 519-661-5670 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).