GTA raids target alleged vehicle fraud

Toronto police say they have smashed a fraud ring that allegedly reported dozens of fake and staged collisions to authorities.

Fake collision in 2009 prompts police to probe dozens more

Cruisers line up at Toronto police's 43 Division with suspects from multiple arrests across the city on Thursday. (Tony Smyth/CBC)

Toronto police say they have smashed a fraud ring that allegedly reported dozens of fake and staged collisions to authorities.

Thirty-seven people have been arrested, after police undertook a series of raids across the Greater Toronto Area on Thursday morning. Dozens of charges have been laid.

Police say the arrests resulted from an investigation that began when two vehicles were brought into a collision reporting centre in 2009.

The supposed collision drew the attention of officers who deduced that "something just didn’t seem right with it," Insp. Gord Jones told reporters during a Thursday press conference.

It turned out that the collision had been staged.

Charges were laid, and the case eventually led police and insurers in the direction of other fake collisions, which were subsequently investigated.

That joint investigation, called Project Whiplash, eventually identified 77 fake and staged collisions.

Chief Bill Blair said Thursday that insurance companies ended up paying millions of dollars in claims as a result.

"This is a multimillion-dollar fraud that was being perpetuated here in the GTA and certainly there was a small number of people who have been exploiting a large number of people," Blair said.

Police allege that paralegals and rehabilitation clinic owners were part of the fraud, helping to provide and submit paperwork that was submitted to insurers.

Det. Mike McCulloch said collisions can be very lucrative fraud opportunities, because of the amount of money that each person in a vehicle can claim from an insurer.

"You can make about $50,000 per person in a vehicle," he said.

McCulloch said people are often offered money to file false injury claims from accidents that were faked or staged.

In the collisions under investigation in Project Whiplash, members of the South Asian community were frequently approached by people organizing the fraud.

And for that reason, police are warning the community to be on guard for such propositions in the future.

"We want to offer support and advice to those who might be tempted to get involved in this behaviour," said Blair.

"We want them to know, first of all, it’s dangerous. And secondly, they open themselves up to criminal prosecution for their involvement."