Toronto police bust brazen moving scam, recover property belonging to 22 families

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The Toronto Police Service has announced three suspects are facing several charges in connection with an alleged moving scam that saw items belonging to 22 families being recovered in an east-end warehouse.

Const. Chris Long, an officer at 41 Division who has been leading different investigations into moving scams in the east end over much of the past year, said officers began their probe after getting a call from a London, Ont., resident at the end of May.

“They actually found my information based on the article from CityNews in December,” he told reporters Monday afternoon.

“I happened to do some checks on our end and found we had several Toronto occurrences involving those same companies.”

After officers from various units executed a search warrant on two warehouses near Bellamy Road North and Progress Avenue covering around 15,000 to 20,000 square feet, they found all of the belongings separated by family.

“It’s not only furniture and televisions that we’re finding,” Long said.

“There’s a lot of property with extreme sentimental value to these victims: Photo albums, family memorabilia, there are deceased members’ personal effects, in some cases, the ashes of family members that are being stored here – things that a victim can never replace and we want to make sure we do everything we can to make sure these victims are reunited with their property.”

Although the items were all found together, a mammoth effort is underway to try to get all of the belongings back to those who have been waiting for weeks to put those items safely into storage — especially at the end of the month when many moving companies have crews booked.

“The logistics are challenging. Obviously with this much space not knowing what we’re getting into there’s obviously the evidence collection portion of it, which we were able to do quickly,” Long said.

“We’ll be working to do what we can to make sure it’s secured from these warehouses and deliver it back to them by either volunteers or the owners being able to come pick them up themselves.”

Long said the accused in the case operated under various moving company names, including: 12282569 Canada Inc., O’Canada Movers, Roadway Moving and Storage Inc., SafeBound Moving and Storage Inc., Canadian Principal Movers, All You Can move, Right on Track Moving, New Vision Moving and Greenway Moving.

“The purpose of the scam is to confuse victims as much as possible so that they don’t have really a chance, especially during a peak season of moving when a lot of the reputable companies just have nothing available because they’re booked up. These companies can just take advantage of that and exploit these victims.”

Meanwhile, investigators said two 30-year-old Toronto men — Cemal Ozturk and Dogan Celik — were arrested on Friday and charged with conspiracy to commit an indictable offence and 22 counts each of false pretense, fraud over $5,000, mischief over $5,000, and possession of property obtained by crime.

Officers said a 27-year-old Toronto woman, Amethyst Jones, is wanted on the same charges. Long encouraged the suspect to surrender to police.

Despite the latest arrests, he said these types of scams are prevalent across eastern Canada.

“Often victims are confused about who they should be reporting this to and in a lot of cases it’s just not going reported,” Long said, urging people to contact their local police service to help with broader ongoing investigations.

“I would assume I haven’t even hit the tip of the iceberg of these kinds of things. We want to send a message to them too. If you do this sort of thing, you will be arrested. We will do everything we can to protect our victims.”