Toronto (June 24, 2020) – The Toronto police laid more than 50 charges against a Toronto police officer and 10 other suspects including employees of the towing industry on June 18 as the result of an anti-corruption investigation led by the force’s Professional Standards Unit. The investigators accused several tow truck employees of using stolen encrypted police radios to learn about traffic collisions and get a head start before their competitors. At least one police radio was stolen by a member of the Toronto police service for financial gain. Over the last two months, the authorities executed multiple search warrants which led to arrests and charges for corruption-related as well as criminal organization-related offenses.
The Toronto police reported about 50 charges against 11 suspects including a police officer and several employees from multiple tow truck companies in a press release on June 22. The anti-corruption investigation into the towing industry was led by the force’s Professional Standards unit. The GTA’s towing industry has been under investigation already for several times over the past years.
Investigation into the towing industry
In August 2019, the Professional Standards unit launched an anti-corruption investigation into the theft of encrypted police radios. ‘As the investigation took on some drive, the corruption revealed itself,’ said Domenic Sinopoli, Superintendent of the force’s Professional Standards Unit in a news conference.
He explained that the investigation revealed that several tow truck employees from different companies were in possession of stolen police radios, which they used to find out about traffic collisions and arrive at the crash site before their competitors. The police further alleged that the information transmissions were broadcasted by one driver to other tow truck drivers for a monthly fee using an online app.
Moreover, the Professional Standards unit found out that at least one radio was stolen by a member of the Toronto police service, who was stationed at 22 division, for financial gain.
Theft of encrypted police radios
On May 9 of this year, the police stopped a tow truck driver, who was driving dangerously along highway 400. During this vehicle stop, the officers seized a Toronto police radio. Police technicians discovered that at the time of the inquiry, there was a radio at the 22 division, which turned out to be a cloned version of the seized radio. ‘What this illustrates is that the tow operator had a genuine TPS radio in his possession, while our officers were using a cloned version,’ concluded Superintendent Sinopoli.
Over the last two months, the Toronto police executed numerous search warrants. During the residential search warrants in Brampton, Barrie, and Toronto on May 26, the investigators seized six tow trucks and recovered radios, radio parts belonging to other unidentified organizations, various radio parts used for cloning as well as a loaded firearm.
The authorities believe that three of the recovered radios have been stolen from the Toronto police between February 2018 and December 2019.
The anti-corruption investigation
On June 15, the investigators arrested and charged the Toronto police officer, Constable Ronald Joseph, with Breach of Trust and Theft Over $5,000 in relation to the recovered radio from the traffic stop on May 9. The 47-year-old was immediately suspended from the service after 11 years as a police officer.
The anti-corruption investigation by the service’s Professional Standards unit revealed that Constable Joseph played a significant role in multiple aspects of the criminal operation. He allegedly stole the police radio from the Toronto Service for financial gain between September 12, 2019, and October 7, 2019. ‘[T]he same officer […] was receiving monetary compensation for informing the set group on accident locations. The same officer was also operating a car rental agency and owned two tow trucks which were then being operated by members of the group. The officer would receive monetary compensation for the tow trucks, he would receive kickbacks for the tips he provided, and he would receive referrals for his car rental agency,’ listed Superintendent Sinopoli in the press conference, without naming an exact amount of his financial gains.
More than 50 charges laid against 11 individuals
On June 18, the authorities executed more search warrants at five residential and seven commercial properties. During these search warrants, the police seized $35,000 in cash, six tow trucks belonging to three different companies.
As a result, investigators of the Toronto police with the assistance of the York police and the OPP laid more than 50 charges against 11 individuals. Chief Mark Saunders explained at the news conference that they ‘allege that each of the arrested individuals had been involved in organized crime and have links to tow truck industries.’
They re-arrested Constable Joseph and charged him with three counts of Breach of Trust, two counts of Secret Commissions, Counselling Offence that is not committed: Indictable offense (Breach of Trust), Counselling Offence that is not committed: Indictable offense (Forgery), Attempt- Fraud Over, Commission of Offence for Criminal Organization – Unauthorized Use of Computer, Participation in Activities of Criminal Organization – Unauthorized Use of Computer, Possession of Device to Intercept Private Communications, and Trafficking in Property Obtained by Crime.
Among the ten further arrested suspects are seven tow truck drivers. They were also charged and are accused of various criminal code corruption-related offenses as well as criminal organization-related offenses. All suspects are scheduled to appear in Toronto court on September 4. The police said that the investigation is still ongoing.
With this investigation, the GTA’s towing industry was the subject of an investigation into corruption and violence yet again. Only recently, the York police investigated the branch during Project Platinum in connection with an escalated turf war among Ontarian tow truck companies.
The Toronto police asked anyone with information to contact them at 416-808-2800, or anonymously through Crime Stoppers at 416-222-TIPS (8477).