Police from 42 Division have charged 14 people in an $8 million “elaborate” fraud and money laundering scheme.
The investigation, dubbed Project Fellowship, began on June 28, 2016 in Scarborough.
“It started out with the use of cheques to inflate or maximize people’s available funds in their accounts,” Det. Const. Michael Lane said in an interview Friday, Feb. 17. “From there, it allowed them to use those funds. Later on, the financial institutions learned that the cheques were worthless and that they’re out a lot of money.”
Another aspect of the investigation was the use of fake ID to obtain financial gain, police allege.
“With those fake names, they created businesses and then they were able to open up accounts,” alleged Lane, adding suspects were then able to get “vehicles by stating they worked for these companies, which the allegations are don’t exist, and then never paying for the vehicles or loans.”
At least 10 financial institutions in Ontario and Quebec were allegedly defrauded.
The financial institutions have been “very cooperative” with the investigation, police said.
Investigators believe more than $8 million worth of fraudulent cheques, stolen merchandise and proceeds of crime were obtained.
“We executed the search warrants on the weekend (Feb. 11 and 12), and we obtained a large quantity of identification, identities in multiple names,” Lane alleged.
Cellphones and computers were also seized.
About 100 pieces of the recovered property were displayed during a news conference at Toronto police headquarters Friday.
“It was a very detailed and elaborate scheme,” Lane told reporters at the conference.
Vehicles have been seized by police during the investigation. ”Some of the funds have been recovered as well,” said Lane, of the 42 Division fraud unit. “Part of this investigation also is that these vehicles are … being shipped out to Quebec. Some have been located on containers as well as in auctions within the province of Quebec.”
The 14 accused range in age from early 20s to late 60s.
Balasubramaniam Shanjeefkaran, 35, of Ajax was arrested Feb. 10 and is charged with fraud over $5,000, possessing proceeds obtained by crime over $5,000, laundering proceeds obtained by crime, unauthorized possession of a counterfeit mark and conspiracy to commit an indictable offence.
He appeared in court at Old City Hall on the morning of Feb. 11.
His wife, Sukanya Panchalingam, 30, also of Ajax, was arrested Feb. 13 and is charged with fraud over $5,000, possessing proceeds obtained by crime over $5,000 and laundering proceeds obtained by crime.
She is scheduled to appear in court at 1911 Eglinton Ave. E. on the afternoon of April 6.
She worked for a financial institution as a fraud detection agent, police said.
Police didn’t release the names of the other 12 people charged.
The investigation is ongoing.
Police are asking anyone with information to contact 42 Division at 416-808-4200 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-TIPS (8477), online at 222tips.com or text TOR and your message to CRIMES (274637).