Ottawa police officers charged in tow truck corruption investigation
3 officers, 3 members of public charged by RCMP anti-corruption unit
Three Ottawa police constables are facing charges including breach of trust and fraud stemming from an RCMP investigation into accusations they sold information about crashes to tow truck drivers.
In a news release issued Thursday morning, RCMP said the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) asked investigators to look into the matter last July. In a separate statement, the Ottawa Police Service said it first learned of the corruption allegations the previous month.
Const. Hussein Assaad, 44, Const. Kevin Putinski, 32 and Const. Andrew Chronopoulos, 38, are each charged by the RCMP's anti-corruption unit with breach of trust and secret commissions, a charge under the fraud section of the Criminal Code involving what would commonly be called kickbacks.
These allegations against three of our members will likely shake the trust and confidence that OPS members have worked long and hard to earn with the public.- Ottawa police Chief Peter Sloly
Putinski is also charged with fraud under $5,000 and Assaad is also charged with providing unauthorized access to confidential police databases, obstruction of justice and conspiracy to commit break and enter.
Ottawa police Chief Peter Sloly, who took over the force in October as the investigation was ongoing, issued a statement that called the allegations "very serious."
"These allegations against three of our members will likely shake the trust and confidence that OPS members have worked long and hard to earn with the public," he said.
"Every member of the OPS will be troubled by this news as we hold our oath of office and our organization's values in the highest regard."
A 'major setback'
Sloly said the charges don't reflect the overall integrity of the police service, and said he's launching a new internal ethics unit to improve the force's morale and professionalism.
"The events of today represent a major setback for the OPS, but we are fully committed to doing the right things to remedy this," he told Radio-Canada on Thursday.
"In every crisis there's an opportunity as well as a challenge. The challenge is we've lost a measure of public trust and our reputation has taken a hit. The opportunity is we can refocus, reinvest [and] make new efforts to be a better police service."
Sloly said he recognizes how difficult it will be regain the public trust after such serious charges.
"Earning the public's trust is one of the most difficult and important things that we do and a charge against a police officer ... and a corruption charge has the biggest impact I think on that public trust."
Sandy Smallwood, the acting chair of the Ottawa Police Services Board, said he found out about the charges early Thursday morning. He agrees with Sloly that the alleged actions of the officers involved do not represent the police service, and vowed the matter will be dealt with properly.
"This is [in] no way something that is going to be swept under the carpet or any way tolerated," he said.
3 others charged
Three other people are also charged in the RCMP investigation: Jason Ishraki, 33, Veronika Ishraki, 56, and Marwan Sablani, 49.
Jason Ishraki is charged with obtaining access to confidential police databases, fraud under $5,000 and secret commissions. Veronika Ishraki is charged with secret commissions, and Sablani with conspiracy to commit break and enter and theft.
Jason Ishraki, Assaad and Sablani are in custody as they await a bail hearing, while the other three were released until their next court appearance.
The RCMP said they have warrants to search five homes as well as an Ottawa police workspace.
The president of the Provincial Towing Association of Ontario said his organization has been pushing for the tow truck industry to be licensed provincially.
Mark Graves said having standards in place will protect both tow truck drivers and motorists.
"[Licensing] makes sure the consumer is getting quality work and it makes everyone understand we're playing on an even playing field," he said.