Durham Police Dismantle International Crime Ring
Durham Regional Police have dismantled an international crime ring involved in distraction-style thefts and fraud in what they are calling Project Mansfield.
Police say the investigation into Roma organized crime found that the group was involved in thefts across Ontario and Quebec.
In total, 29 suspects have been arrested and 263 charges laid. Six suspects remain outstanding. The investigation has also identified more than 400 people associated to this organized crime ring.
The investigation began in November 2011 and received support from multiple agencies including the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), RCMP, Toronto Police, the OPP, FBI, Homeland Security, US Customs and Border Protection, Interpol and police services in Montreal, York Region, London, Sudbury, and Peel Region.
"This is by far the largest investigation of its kind here in Durham Region and I am very proud of our hard working men and women who devoted so much time and energy to this important investigation," said DRPS Chief Constable Mike Ewles.
In the fall of 2011, two frontline officers in Oshawa began noticing a trend in distraction-style thefts and frauds occurring in Durham Region. Unknown suspects would target jewelry stores, convenience store and even senior citizens. As one distracted the victim, others would steal valuables and leave the scene. The suspects involved men, women and their children who were observed tucking stolen items inside their long skirts which had inside panel compartments.
Other police services in Ontario had reported similar incidents. The investigation soon focused on a family living on Denby Drive in Pickering and an associate on Eastdale Avenue in Toronto. Durham Police investigators continued to share information with other police services assoon as they realized the ring was active in many other jurisdictions, including Toronto, London, Sudbury, York and Peel. Durham Police has been in contact with each of these services to identify the known distraction theft groups.
It is alleged the ring would also recruit individuals into Canada. Once in Canada, they would claim refugee status, and then apply for social assistance, primarily in Toronto. They would be brought into the distraction-theft/fraud operation and hand over any profits to the ringleaders.
Police were able to arrest some of the ringleaders but continue to search for 42-year-old Ovidiu Caldaras and 20-year-old Robert Caldaras who may have fled to Germany.
Investigators have been able to seize a total of $85,000 in Canadian currency and stolen merchandise as well as credit cards. They have also identified over $1-million in suspicious wire transactions shipped overseas.
Anyone with new information regarding this investigation is asked to contact Det. Sgt. Bawden of the Project Mansfield team at 1-888-579-1520 ext. 2511.