Edmonton·CBC Investigates

How a stolen police badge raised concerns about Abdullah Shah and his connections with Edmonton police

Part Four of CBC Edmonton's new series — Behind the blue line: Investigating Abdullah Shah — looks at Shah's relationship with at least one former high-ranking Edmonton police officer. 

EPS Supt. later cleared after lengthy investigation into alleged improper relationship with landlord

Det. Dan Behiels (left) was suspended after revealing he'd leaked investigation documents to CBC. The investigation was into Edmonton landlord Abdullah Shah (right). (Amber Bracken/Travis McEwan)

For more than three years, Edmonton police Det. Dan Behiels investigated notorious Edmonton landlord Abdullah Shah and some of his alleged accomplices. In January 2021, when the investigations concluded and no charges were laid, a frustrated Behiels took the extraordinary step of leaking the confidential investigative documents to CBC News. He is now suspended and facing disciplinary charges. CBC Edmonton's new series — Behind the blue line: Investigating Abdullah Shah — digs into those documents and why Behiels decided to put his career on the line for them.

Part Four looks at Shah's relationship with at least one former high-ranking police officer. 

It was during the investigation into Abdullah Shah as part of Project Fisk that now-suspended Edmonton police Det. Dan Behiels raised concerns about the connections between the notorious inner-city landlord and high-ranking police officials.

As Behiels dug deeper, he began to form the opinion that those connections might have prevented thorough criminal investigations. 

One particular relationship that raised concerns for him was between Shah, also known as Carmen Pervez, and now-retired Supt. Ed McIsaac.

Behiels formally raised those concerns twice with Edmonton police Chief Dale McFee, first in March 2019 and again in January 2021 after he leaked information to CBC News about the Fisk investigation.

"It is my belief that Supt. McIsaac has participated in a protracted relationship with Shah which has either impeded or otherwise prevented thorough criminal investigations where they otherwise have been warranted," Behiels alleged in the March 22, 2019 report to McFee.

In an email to CBC News in August, McIsaac vehemently denied all of Behiels' accusations, calling it a "theme designed by a suspended disgruntled employee."

Ed McIsaac (left) at a 2016 news conference regarding a drug bust. (CBC)

When asked about the allegations, Shah's lawyer suggested in an email to CBC News that Behiels had an "apparent vendetta" against McIsaac, and that the allegations about McIsaac undermine Behiels' credibility and raise questions about his fitness for duty. 

"As far as my clients are aware, Ed McIsaac has always acted with integrity and any suggestion that any of my clients have benefitted from any 'corruption' or other improper conduct by Mr. McIsaac or any other EPS officer is blatantly untrue," Erika Norheim wrote.

Lost police property found by Shah

Shah has been the subject of a number of EPS investigations. He is a well-known person in Edmonton's inner city, where at one point he owned up to 100 properties. He has a criminal record going back to 1983, has served time for drug trafficking and for a $30-million dollar mortgage fraud scheme, and he currently is on probation after pleading guilty to paying people to assault his former employee last year. 

He also is recovering from being shot in the jaw in August, and faces a preliminary hearing next year on fentanyl trafficking charges.

Abdullah Shah has a criminal record that dates back to 1983. (Edmonton Police Service)

On March 8, 2019, during the Project Fisk investigation, Behiels discovered Shah and McIsaac had recently communicated with each other.

Nine days earlier, detectives had seized a cellphone as part of an investigation into allegations of conspiracy to commit an indictable offence — aggravated assault — levelled against Shah, Behiels wrote in his 2019 report to McFee.

The phone logs revealed that in mid-afternoon on Feb. 26, 2019, Shah called McIsaac and the two men spoke for just under two minutes. 

Five minutes later, Shah texted two images to McIsaac. The photos were of a police badge that had been reported stolen in November 2018 along with the affected officer's police identification card. 

The photo texted by Shah to McIsaac of the stolen EPS badge. (Edmonton Police Service)

At the time the two men spoke, Shah was being actively investigated by police under Project Fisk.

"I don't believe that [Shah] was aware there was an investigation. There was an investigative strategy," McIsaac wrote to CBC News when asked about the phone calls and text messages.

"If [Shah] knew there was an investigation, he probably would have changed his communication process … If I did not answer his calls, he may have been suspicious." 

Behiels showed the text messages and phone log to another detective who then approached McIsaac. A police report obtained by CBC News shows McIsaac told the detective he did not act on the information about the stolen property because he no longer worked in the downtown division. 

"I advised Mr. [Shah] that I was no longer in charge of downtown division, and if he had any information to assist the Edmonton Police Service, there were numerous other ways to report and communicate, and not to report through me," McIsaac further explained to CBC News in a September email. 

Behiels wrote to McFee in his March 2019 report that he found it troubling that the phone messages between Shah and McIsaac didn't prompt an immediate investigation into the discovery of the stolen badge.

The badge incident wasn't the first time Shah had told police about found items. Between March 2017 and July 2018, Shah reported other found items to McIsaac, including a Transport Canada badge, explosives and a duffel bag of Edmonton fire department equipment.

When asked for an explanation, McIsaac told CBC News, "I believe Mr. [Shah] understood that certain pieces of property should be turned over to the Edmonton Police Service."

Edmonton police turned down repeated requests for an interview with McFee but a spokesperson confirmed Behiels' concerns led to investigations by two external law enforcement organizations. 

When CBC News asked McIsaac about his relationship with Shah, the retired officer said he was simply doing his job.

My role was to engage with the community- Retired Supt. Ed McIsaac

"While I was the superintendent in downtown division, my role was to engage with the community, foster professional relationships and assist the community ethically and professionally," McIsaac wrote in a September email to CBC News. "Like numerous other citizens in the community, I had a professional relationship with [Shah] and to suggest anything more is incorrect."

Repeated communication between Shah, police superintendent

Communications between Shah and McIsaac had previously come up in a different police investigation.

In November 2017, McIsaac authorized and supervised Project Domino, an undercover and wiretap operation into alleged drug activity by Shah and persons of interest. The superintendent approved staffing and the budget.

The wiretap on Shah's cellphone revealed that on Nov. 29, 2017, McIsaac phoned Shah at 4:03 p.m. The call lasted 25 seconds.

That same day Shah called McIsaac another eight times between 4:57 p.m. and 7:21 p.m.

McIsaac called Shah twice in that same period.

All the calls lasted less than a minute. The final exchange was a phone call made by the police superintendent to Shah that lasted almost seven minutes.

Project Domino was suspended the next day. 

Edmonton police headquarters in downtown Edmonton. (Amber Bracken)

In his August email to CBC News, McIsaac said the project was put on hold after he sought expert advice on the admissibility of evidence. 

No charges were ever laid as part of Project Domino.

Edmonton police say that Behiels' allegations against McIsaac were thoroughly investigated.

The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team, the province's police watchdog, conducted a preliminary investigation into the allegations Behiels made about McIsaac in his 2019 report to McFee and determined they were not criminal.

ASIRT handed the file back to EPS.

"Given the nature of the allegations, the EPS felt it would be more appropriate for an outside agency to investigate," Edmonton police spokesperson Cheryl Sheppard said in a written statement to CBC News.

EPS then asked the Calgary police anti-corruption unit to conduct a criminal investigation into McIsaac. 

McIsaac told CBC News he cooperated with the investigation and that he applauded the decision to have Calgary police conduct the probe.

"Regardless of how ludicrous the allegations are, the chief is always mandated to investigate," McIsaac wrote. "There is no concern with any member raising concern on any other member's conduct or behaviour."

Ed McIsaac had a long career with the Edmonton Police Service. (Edmonton Police Service)

After 35 years with Edmonton police, McIsaac retired in August 2020. At the time, the Calgary police investigation was still ongoing. 

Five months later, with the Calgary police still investigating, Behiels repeated allegations against McIsaac in a January 2021 report to the chief and implicated others without naming them.

Behiels also alleged McIsaac's relationship with Shah was noticed by other officers. 

"Officers conducting vehicle stops on [Shah] would often approach the driver's window to find Pervez on the phone with, or threatening to call, McIsaac," Behiels wrote in the January 2021 report.

An example of that kind of interaction was later noted in a May 2021 decision by the Law Enforcement Review Board (LERB), a quasi-judicial body which hears appeals about police decisions on complaints about the actions of police officers. It was looking into a complaint Shah lodged against a constable who pulled his vehicle over in February 2017.

"It is not disputed that Shah telephoned and was speaking with...McIsaac on his cellphone during part of the incident," the LERB said in its decision. 

Sheppard said Behiels' January 2021 allegations were passed along to the Calgary Police Service, and investigators questioned Behiels shortly afterwards.

On July 26, 2021, Behiels received a letter from Det. Keith Peters with the CPS anti-corruption unit, saying the investigation had concluded after more than two years. 

"An extensive and thorough investigation was conducted and found that the evidence did not support or meet the threshold for criminal charges," Peters wrote.

"There will not be any additional investigative steps taken by the Calgary Police Service related to these concerns."

No criminality or evidence of corruption-  EPS Spokesperson cheryl Sheppard

Four days later, EPS spokesperson Sheppard noted in an email to CBC News that the "extensive" investigation by Calgary police found "no criminality or evidence of corruption by the EPS and its members." 

As a retired officer, McIsaac is no longer subject to any internal disciplinary investigation.

Behiels says he has more questions than answers.

"The threshold of criminal charges is very different than knowing what needs to be cleaned up," Behiels said in an interview with CBC News. 

Complaints made by Shah against police

While Behiels was making internal allegations about McIsaac, Shah and his associates were filing formal complaints about Behiels and other Edmonton police officers. 

An exhibit log obtained by CBC News shows that between April 2015 and October 2019, Edmonton lawyer Erika Norheim filed 24 complaints on behalf of Shah and his associates or tenants against Edmonton police officers. 

Edmonton lawyer Erika Norheim filed two dozen complaints about EPS officers between 2015 and 2019 on behalf of Shah and his associates or tenants. (LinkedIn)

Of that number, seven named Behiels. None were made against McIsaac.

In his 2021 report to the police chief, Behiels alleged that in 2013, Shah "began using the EPS complaints process to frustrate investigations into his criminal enterprise."

McIsaac told CBC News that Shah "had numerous complaints about the division," and that as superintendent, he tried to stickhandle those situations.

"As the superintendent, I attempted to assist and did assist the division and the members through a number of [Shah's] complaints," McIsaac wrote in his August email. 

In April 2019, the Law Enforcement Review Board asked McFee to re-investigate one of the complaints against Behiels.

It was related to a January 2018 alleged trespassing and search of a garage without a warrant.

In the decision, the LERB noted that Shah "alleged this was part of a pattern of harassment by the EPS in relation to this property."

The reinvestigation could result in a disciplinary charge being laid against Behiels; however, as of last week, Behiels said he has so far not been advised on the conclusion of the reinvestigation.

Shah's lawyer, Erika Norheim, wrote a July 2019 email to an Edmonton Journal reporter: "Det. Behiels is also currently facing a disciplinary hearing in connection with an unlawful search of a residence" that was owned by one of Shah's HPS associates.

In that email, Norheim suggested she was surprised the chief would allow Behiels to remain on files related to Shah. "It is evident that Det. Behiels bears animosity" toward Shah, she wrote. 

Behiels is also currently under investigation for leaking information to CBC News. He faces possible charges of insubordination, breach of trust and discreditable conduct.

Coming up tomorrow: Part Five: Civil lawsuits and the aftermath


Janice Johnston

Court and crime reporter

Janice Johnston is an investigative journalist with CBC Edmonton who has covered Alberta courts and crime for more than three decades. She won a national Radio Television Digital News Association award in 2016 for her coverage of the trial of a 13-year-old Alberta boy who was acquitted of killing his abusive father. You can reach her at janice.johnston@cbc.ca.