Toronto police arrest 25 in multi-million-dollar investment scheme

Matthew Coutts

Toronto police have announced 25 arrests in an ongoing investigation into a sweeping and comprehensive alleged fraud ring that bilked financial groups out of $8 million using fake accountants and shell companies across southern Ontario.

"Project Terrier" was active for nearly a full year before details were released on Monday. Toronto police allege that between March 2011 and October 2012, the suspects participated in an organized scheme to trick banks and other financial institutions into investing in fake businesses.

Det. Const. Sarath Thayalan outlined the complex series of events allegedly used to convince financial institutions into believing they were investing in legitimate businesses.

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According to Thayalan, suspects claiming to be reputable accountant from fabricated companies would approach a target with a plan to invest in a fake company. They would use falsified documents and real storefronts to convince lenders to part with their money.

"The scheme involved the creation of several shell companies, which were then used to apply for credit from a targeted lender," said Thayalan at a Monday press conference.

"Over the course of the fraud, the suspects produced and utilized large amounts of fraudulent documentation and records, systematically deceived and manipulated third parties, impersonated legitimate accountants in the Greater Toronto area, and staged and passed off the buildings and equipment of other, legitimate businesses as those belonging to a shell company."

As much as $8 million was allegedly targeted, with money being laundered both in Canada and overseas.

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Police said the investigation has found 15 incidents in which the suspects targeted money lenders, but believe there may be more victims.

A complete list of suspects and the charges they face is available here. The most common charges are money laundering, forging documents, fraud and attempting to obtain credit by false pretenses.

Police claim the ring involved two shell financial groups called Omnium Financial Group, based in Woodbridge, Ont., and Yorkshire Capital in Concord, Ont. Legitimate storefronts across the province were given false names and used as part of the scheme. A list of false names is available here.

Police are appealing to anyone who has had dealings with these businesses to contact investigators.

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