It was good while it lasted: the luxurious life of an alleged Toronto fraud crew
Crocodile skin boots and a $146,000 moon dust watch among items seized from Yorkville apartment
Crocodile skin boots, Italian suits and a watch made from actual moon dust are just some of the items Toronto Police have seized from a suspected fraud crew, but there's much, much more.
These are just some the alleged proceeds of crime that police displayed on Tuesday as a result of an investigation dubbed Project Royal, which began in 2016:
- 90 pairs of shoes including a $10,000 pair of crocodile skin boots
- Seven watches including a Romaine Jerome Moon Dust Automatic valued at $146,000
- Designer clothing, jewellery, accessories and liquor valued at $390,000
- Several pairs of sunglasses valued at $10,000
"It's the absurdity of the consumption that stands out," Detective Constable Mike Kelly said at media conference on Tuesday. "We had $2,000 just in skin moisturizer. It was unsual."
There was also $39,000 cash, 37 credit cards and hundreds of pieces of allegedly stolen mail among the items seized at a Yorkville condominium unit police say was also fraudulently paid for.
Two Toronto men, aged 45 and 37, have been arrested and charged with several fraud related crimes and possession of the proceeds of crime.
Police have also issued warrant for a third suspect, a 44 year-old, of Toronto.
And a 47-year-old Toronto man who police say is also connected to the group is wanted in the United States.
Police allege the group stole pieces of mail, including bank statements, and that they were were in possession of the personal information of approximately 5,000 GTA residents.
"You're talking about literally thousands of individuals all throughout the GTA whose information has been at least compromised," Kelly said.
Investigators say the group used that information to obtain credit cards, which they then used to fund their luxury lifestyles.
The Yorkville condo was paid for with credit card cash advances, police say.
The accused did most of their shopping in the Yorkville area, Kelly says, and in some cases, merchants may have known fraud was taking place or at least "looked the other way" when luxury goods were purchased on credit.
Police say when questioned, the men would describe themselves as businessmen or tourists.
One of the suspects, who resided in the upscale Yorkville condo, said he worked for a moving company.
Police don't believe any of the items were being sold. The only motivation behind the alleged fraud was "conspicuous consumption", Kelly said.
All of the accused maintained social media profiles in which much of their glitzy lifestyle is documented.
It all adds up to approximately $10-million in fraud, Det.- Sgt. Ian Nichol, of the financial crimes unit said at the media conference on Tuesday.
Nichol said investigators believe one of the suspects had connections with people working at financial institutions who may have helped him access "sensitive information."
Police are asking the public to help identify those people.
The investigation was a partnership between Toronto Police, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Competition Bureau of Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Government and Consumer Services, the Ontario Ministry of Finance, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.