Toronto

It was good while it lasted: the luxurious life of an alleged Toronto fraud crew

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.

Crocodile skin boots and a $146,000 moon dust watch among items seized from Yorkville apartment

Toronto Police allege a group of Toronto men are behind millions of dollar worth of credit card fraud they used to buy luxury clothing, watches and other items. (Trevor Dunn/CBC)

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."

This Romain Jerome Moon Dust watch seized by Toronto Police has an estimated value of $146,000 (Trevor Dunn/CBC)

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.

Toronto Police seized thousands of dollars worth of wine and liquor in Project Royal, an investigation into an alleged credit card fraud committed by a group of Toronto men. (Trevor Dunn/CBC)

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.

Toronto Police seized seven watches as part of the fraud investigation Project Royal. (Trevor Dunn/CBC)

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.

Toronto Police say they seized 90 pairs of shoes in the Project Royal investigation into an alleged fraud crew. (Trevor Dunn/CBC)

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.

A pair of shoes, one of 90, Toronto Police seized when they raided the home of a man charged with credit card fraud (Trevor Dunn/CBC)

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.

One of several items of designer clothing allegedly obtain through credit card fraud. (Trevor Dunn/CBC)

About the Author

Trevor Dunn is an award-winning journalist with CBC Toronto. Since 2008 he's covered a variety of topics, ranging from local and national politics to technology on the South American countryside. Trevor is interested in uncovering news: real estate, crime, corruption, art, sports. Reach out to him. Se habla español. trevor.dunn@cbc.ca

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