Ontario announces task force to review ways to revamp tow truck industry

By Michelle McQuigge

THE CANADIAN PRESS

TORONTO _ A wave of alleged criminal activity rocking Ontario’s tow truck industry clearly shows the need for stronger oversight, Premier Doug Ford said Monday as he announced a newly appointed task force would be reviewing ways to overhaul the sector.

The group, consisting of officials from across numerous government ministries as well as the Ontario Provincial Police, will draft a new regulatory framework for the sector that has wound up in the crosshairs of at least two high-profile police probes in recent months.

Ford cited the investigations by both the Toronto and York Regional Police services when announcing the task force.

“To all the bad actors out there, my message is very clear the party’s over,” Ford said at a news conference.  “We’re coming for you, and we’ll catch you, and we will lock you up.”

York police said last month that a number of industry players were facing charges following an investigation dubbed Project Platinum that spanned several jurisdictions but concentrated on the Greater Toronto Area.

Supt. Mike Slack of the force’s organized crime and intelligence services said at the time that a lucrative turf war had erupted along stretches of major provincial highways, resulting in charges ranging from murder to arson. None of those charges have yet been proven in court.

Slack alleged multiple tow truck companies, all with ties to organized crime, had defraudeinsurance companies with vehicles involved in real and staged collisions. He alleged the companies would grossly inflate towing bills, move cars from lot to lot to increase storage fees and inflate repair bills.

Body shops and car rental companies were in on the schemes, Slack said, and would receive  “profitable cuts for themselves.”

Insurance companies grew wise to the alleged frauds, Slack said, prompting them to hire a Vaughan, Ont., law firm to help them push back against the scams. That firm, police alleged, itself became a target of threats and gun violence and was ultimately forced to close up shop.

Project Platinum ultimately resulted in dozens of charges against at least 20 people. Weeks later, Toronto police charged 11 others in an investigation of its own that ensnared a veteran officer.

The officer was accused of stealing encrypted police radios and helping to put them in the hands of tow truck operators. Those drivers would then rely on dispatch information to arrive first at accident scenes and secure lucrative towing jobs, the force alleged.

In reviewing the mandate of the new task force, Ontario Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney said that practice would be among the many issues flagged for review.

“This is an element that contributes to the violence,” she said. “It’s certainly something that we will be looking at as part of the task force’s work.”

The task force will also be asked to provide recommendations for a new regulatory framework, which could potentially replace the current system that leaves the towing industry subject to a patchwork of regulations set by municipalities rather than the province.

Solicitor General Sylvia Jones agreed Monday that it was time for tighter regulations.

“(Towing companies) are operating in an industry that lacks oversight and structure, and where too many criminals are making their own rules,” she said. “A spike in violence within the industry … is a threat to Ontarians and public safety, and it must end.”

The government said the task force would also review issues such as stronger consumer protections, training and background checks for industry members.

Mulroney said the group has been asked to present its recommendations by the end of July, which will then be shared with sector members and municipalities for input before any government action on the issue gets underway.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 29, 2020.

Robbers escape by air after stealing gold bars from Canadian mine in Mexico

TORONTO _ Canadian mining firm Alamos Gold Inc. reports that a group of armed robbers intercepted gold dore bars on the runway at its Mulatos mine site in Mexico, then staged a dramatic escape in a separate light aircraft.

In a statement in Spanish, Alamos’s Mexican subsidiary Minas de Oro Nacional says five heavily armed people subdued security guards who were loading the bars for transport on a plane on Wednesday morning.

At the same time, it says, a light plane, described as a “Cessna-206 type,” landed, and within 10 minutes the aircraft, the armed group and the bars were airborne and headed towards the mountains.

Alamos spokeswoman Rebecca Thompson says no one was hurt in the dramatic robbery, adding another mine, owned by Mineria Penmont, a subsidiary of Fresnillo, was robbed a few weeks ago.

She says the Mulatos loss is covered by insurance.

In a report, National Bank analyst Mike Parkin says 2,600 ounces of dore bars, an alloy of gold and silver, were taken, but Thompson could not confirm that figure.

March is Fraud Prevention Month!

March is Fraud Prevention Month!

The Whig Standard

The Beaumont RCMP would like to remind residents that every year, thousands of Canadians fall victim to fraud, losing millions of dollars. Most don’t think it could happen to them, but fraudsters use sophisticated ways to target people of all ages. The impact of fraud on individuals, families and businesses can be devastating. Retirement savings, homes, businesses and in some cases, lives have all been lost.

Scammers victimize vulnerable Canadians, individuals who may be at their lowest. The best way to fight these types of crime is through awareness. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre plays a crucial role in educating the public about scams and fraud.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre is Canada’s repository for data, intelligence and resource material related to fraud. It provides information to assist citizens, businesses and law enforcement in Canada and around the world. For up to date information and to view a list of common scams visit www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca or call 1-888-495-8501 to reach the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

The Beaumont RCMP encourage the public to report any criminal or suspicious activity to police. Your reports tell us where to look, who to look for and where to patrol in the future.

 

Check out our course at ILScorp on Fraud

Homeowners Insurance – What you Need to Know About Fraudulent Claims

 

Centre eyes artificial intelligence to modernize the federal hunt for dirty cash

By Jim Bronskill

THE CANADIAN PRESS

OTTAWA _ The federal anti-money laundering centre is exploring artificial intelligence and machine learning to help sort through a deluge of data in the hunt for hidden dirty cash.

In its annual report made public Wednesday, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada, known as Fintrac, says rapid change in the global financial system, spurred by quickly evolving technology, is both a challenge and an opportunity.

Fintrac says technology can help money launderers but also create more efficient and effective ways of doing business for enforcement agencies.

The federal centre tries to pinpoint cash linked to money laundering and terrorism by sifting through millions of pieces of information annually from banks, insurance companies, securities dealers, money service businesses, real estate brokers, casinos and others.

Overall, the centre disclosed 2,276 pieces of financial intelligence to police and security agencies such as the RCMP and Canadian Security Intelligence Service last year.

Of these, 1,702 were related to money laundering, 373 to terrorism financing and threats to the security of Canada, and 201 to a combination of these.

Fraud, drugs and tax evasion were the most common offences linked to the disclosures. Many of the drug-related ones involved the movement of money related to deadly fentanyl.

The top three recipients of information were the RCMP, municipal police forces and CSIS.

In December, Fintrac warned casinos to scrutinize customers who pay for their gaming with bank drafts _ the latest method of choice for criminals trying to disguise tainted money.

The agency published the alert as part of Project Athena, an RCMP-led public-private partnership aimed at disrupting money-laundering activity in British Columbia and across Canada. The initiative was modelled on previous efforts targeting the fentanyl trade, romance fraud and human trafficking.

B.C. launched a public inquiry into money laundering in May after a series of independent reviews revealed that billions of dollars were being laundered through the province’s casinos, real estate market and other sectors.

B.C. was second only to Ontario among provinces in the number of financial intelligence disclosure packages received from Fintrac in 2018-19.

The federal centre depends on sophisticated technology to receive, store and secure over 25 million new financial transaction reports every year.

Filtering and analyzing the information to generate useful intelligence is only possible with modern systems that can manage the high volume of data, make the connections and produce the needed results, all in real-time or close to it, the report says.

“Over the past year, the centre engaged in research and consultation aimed at better understanding how to take advantage of new and evolving technology, particularly in relation to machine learning and artificial intelligence.”

Fintrac has begun a comprehensive review of its modernization effort to ensure “full and timely use” of its data.

IBC: Spot these five common insurance fraud scams

TORONTOMarch 3, 2020 /CNW/ – At the kick-off to Fraud Prevention Month, Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) advised the public to watch out for insurance fraud scams. This type of crime cost Canadians well over $1 billion a year in added insurance premiums, and strains our already burdened health care, emergency services and court systems.

“When someone makes a false or exaggerated claim, it’s the honest policyholders that pay for it,” said Bryan Gast, National Director, Investigative Services, IBC. “IBC wants to help consumers avoid falling victim to insurance fraud,” said Gast. “The more people report fraud, the more fraudsters we can bring to justice.”

Here are five common ways criminals manipulate Canadians and the insurance system:

Five common types of insurance fraud

  1. Inflated Tow, Store & Dent
    Dishonest towing companies and auto repair shops intentionally overbill insurers, driving up insurance premium costs.

  2. The Blank Form
    Disreputable medical clinic staff ask claimants to sign blank accident benefit forms and then bill insurers for services that were not provided. Or, the clinics might forge the signatures of medical practitioners on forms to bill insurers for services never rendered.

  3. Staged Collision
    In a staged collision, a driver intentionally causes an accident with an unsuspecting driver and makes it look as if the innocent driver is at fault.

  4. Fake News
    With policy misrepresentation, an individual misleads an auto insurance company by providing misinformation, such as a false address, or make or model of his or her vehicle. The individual carefully chooses this false information because of its reduced risk profile, which reduces the amount he or she should pay for auto insurance.

  5. Hot Cars
    Stolen, unrepairable and often dangerous vehicles are given a false vehicle identification number and then sold to unsuspecting consumers.

Gast’s national investigative team partners with law enforcement, government agencies and insurance companies across the country to identify insurance crime, investigate fraudsters and scam artists, and bring criminals to justice. The IBC team focuses on all aspects of insurance fraud, including organized crime rings involved in auto theft and fraudulent injury and accident benefit claims.

Five tips for avoiding fraud after a collision

1.

Contact your insurance company if a stranger tries to steer you to an unknown body shop, doctor, chiropractor or legal representative.

2.

See only medical and legal professionals you know and trust, or who are recommended by people you trust.

a.

Contact medical and legal licensing regulators in your province to ensure that your service providers are licensed and that no complaints have been lodged against them.

b.

Know what your medical benefits are; for example, what is and isn’t covered.

c.

Keep detailed records of your medical appointments, including the dates, locations, names of practitioners, diagnoses and services. As well, record the medicine, supplies and/or equipment that were prescribed.

3.

Be involved in your claim. Compare your records against the statements you receive from your insurance company to make sure the bills are accurate and don’t include goods or services you didn’t receive.

4.

Never sign a blank insurance claim form.

5.

Know what your full and final settlement includes.

It’s easy to report a suspected exaggerated claim, staged auto collision or other insurance crime. Call IBC’s anonymous, toll-free TIPS Line at 1-877-IBC-TIPS (422-8477) or submit a tip online at ibc.ca.

About Insurance Bureau of Canada

Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) is the national industry association representing Canada’s private home, auto and business insurers. Its member companies make up 90% of the property and casualty (P&C) insurance market in Canada. For more than 50 years, IBC has worked with governments across the country to help make affordable home, auto and business insurance available for all Canadians. IBC supports the vision of consumers and governments trusting, valuing and supporting the private P&C insurance industry. It champions key issues and helps educate consumers on how best to protect their homes, cars, businesses and properties.

P&C insurance touches the lives of nearly every Canadian and plays a critical role in keeping businesses safe and the Canadian economy strong. It employs more than 128,000 Canadians, pays $9.4 billion in taxes and has a total premium base of $59.6 billion.

For media releases and more information, visit IBC’s Media Centre at www.ibc.ca.

SOURCE Insurance Bureau of Canada

www.ibc.ca

Manitoba funeral director admits to faking client death certificates

Money was collected from insurance companies to pay for funerals that never happened

The excerpted article was written by Darren Bernhardt · CBC News 

A former funeral director pleaded guilty in a Winnipeg court Tuesday to 13 counts of faking death certificates to receive payouts from insurance companies.

Mike Knysh, who once owned and operated Knysh Funeral Chapel in Winnipeg and Beausejour, was set to go to trial in April on 24 counts in total — 11 for fraud and 13 for forgery.

Instead, his lawyer, Frank Coniglio, and Crown prosecutor Mandy Ambrose reached an agreement that saw the 11 fraud charges dropped in exchange for Knysh’s guilty plea in Court of Queen’s Bench to the 13 forgeries.

The victims had purchased prearranged funeral plans from Knysh, police said in April 2018, when the charges were laid.

The 13 counts represent 13 separate people for whom funeral director’s statement-of-death certificates were filed with insurance companies, even though all were alive at the time, court heard.

Knysh then received money from the insurance companies to pay for funerals that never happened. A total of $83,000 was claimed from the insurance policies, police said.

The incidents happened between 2004 and 2014.

As the court clerk read out each charge individually Tuesday, Knysh quietly pleaded guilty. He then responded with a muted “yes” when the clerk clarified each time that he said “guilty.”

Justice Chris Martin followed up by asking if Knysh realized his guilty pleas mean he will have a criminal record.

“Yes,” Knysh said.

Sentencing is set for April 14.

Outside the courtroom, Coniglio called the plea deal “an acceptable resolution,” noting there were a number of charges the defence did not believe were valid.

By avoiding trial, many witnesses — including several who are elderly — will not need to attend court, Coniglio added.

“We didn’t want any of them to have to go through that experience if it wasn’t absolutely necessary,” he said.

Coniglio hopes that will be considered as a mitigating circumstance by the judge during sentencing.

He added there are other such circumstances that will be presented at that hearing to show the crime “is not exactly what it might look like on the face of it.”

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