What we know about 'stand-ins' used by organized crime to sell homes without owner's knowledge
Same man allegedly posed as a tenant for 2 Toronto homes targeted by fraudsters, private investigator says
The same fraudulent driver's licence was used to rent two Toronto homes that organized crime tried to sell without the homeowner's knowledge, according to a private investigator working on the cases.
One of the frauds was thwarted by the family of the homeowner who figured out what was happening before the east end Toronto home could be sold. But the other — involving an Etobicoke property — was successful, and the case made headlines earlier this month when Toronto police issued a press release to help identify suspects.
A CBC Toronto investigation previously revealed organized crime groups in the Greater Toronto Area are paying "stand-ins" to pose as tenants to gain access to properties, and then paying others to impersonate homeowners to mortgage or sell the houses.
Now a picture is emerging of one of those alleged stand-ins whose photo appeared on the fraudulent driver's licence used in two of the real-estate schemes.
Alleged 'stand-in' facing unrelated fraud charges
Court searches show the 54-year-old man was out on bail for unrelated fraud charges when he allegedly posed as a renter to gain access to the two Toronto properties involved in title transfer fraud. The man is currently facing a total of 14 charges in Toronto and Newmarket, Ont., including multiple counts of identity theft and possession of forged documents.
- CBC InvestigatesHow organized crime has mortgaged or sold at least 30 GTA homes without owners' knowledge
CBC Toronto is not naming the alleged stand-in because he couldn't be reached for comment and he hasn't been charged by police in connection to the real estate frauds.
Stand-ins aren't the masterminds behind these frauds, but they can make between $10,000 and $15,000 for a few hours of work, according to Brian King, president and CEO of King International Advisory Group.
"It's easy money," said King. "They're usually low-level criminals that the people behind the organized crime groups can trust."
King's private investigation firm is currently looking into 30 of these real estate frauds in the GTA. The majority of those cases are mortgage frauds, but four are title transfer frauds where the ownership of a home was stolen using identity theft and stand-ins to cash in on the sale of the property.
In the case of the Etobicoke property sold without the owners' knowledge, King says the pair of suspects Toronto police asked for the public's help identifying were stand-ins who allegedly impersonated the homeowners in the sale.
"They're almost like paid actors," he said. "They have to know the right answers to give to the lawyers."
Title insurer John Rider argues the real estate industry and law enforcement need to work together and share information to "weed out these fraudsters."
"We see these IDs and they are very regularly the same people, but they have different names on their ID," said Rider, senior vice president of Chicago Title Insurance Company in Canada.
Name used on ID was a victim of fraud
While the photo on the ID used by the renter in two of these title transfer frauds belongs to an alleged stand-in, CBC Toronto has learned the name on the driver's licence is that of another fraud victim.
The GTA man was the victim of a nearly $700,000 mortgage fraud back in 2020. In the years since, scammers have continued to use the man's name on fake identification. Through his family, the man declined to comment.
King says for every few of these real estate frauds that are successful, there are also those which get caught by lawyers before the transaction is completed. However, enough get through that it's worth it for organized crime to keep trying.
"If they fail on one property, they just move to the next," said King.
CBC Toronto's investigation into title fraud is ongoing. If you have any information about this story or would like to share information on another fraud, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.