Toronto cop deeply involved in tow truck corruption ring: police
Published Monday, June 22, 2020 12:03PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, June 22, 2020 12:32PM EDT
Toronto police allege one of their own was deeply involved in a corrupt tow truck ring, alleging stolen police radios gave drivers access to secret broadcasts for a fee, allowing them to find crashes faster and avoid police detection during the industry’s ongoing turf war.
Toronto police Supt. Domenic Sinopoli said that starting in Aug. 2019, they were made aware of a group of tow truck drivers that had access to the police service’s encrypted radio network.
The drivers allegedly broadcast police transmissions over the internet for a fee, and were able to gain access after a police radio disappeared from a division in Etobicoke.
On May 9, police stopped a driver of a tow truck on Highway 400, Sinopoli said.
When they searched the vehicle, they allegedly found the police-issue encrypted radio taken from 22 Division the year before.
They charged the driver, 27-year-old Barrie resident Kevin Lima, and released him at the scene.
Technicians examined the radio and found it was authentic, but a radio with the same identification number was still being used by police in 22 Division.
“The radio at 22 division was cloned from the one seized from Kevin Lima,” Sinopoli said.
Later that month, on May 26, police raided three homes in Brampton, Barrie and Toronto and allegedly found other radios, parts and tools used to clone radios.
They also allegedly found a Toronto police radio that had been reported missing from 14 Division.
On June 9, another Toronto police radio was found in a tow truck stopped by police on Billy Bishop Way in Toronto.
Lima and two other men found inside the truck were arrested, and a 9mm handgun was allegedly seized.
On June 15, Toronto police Const. Ronald Joseph was arrested and charged in relation to the theft of one of the radios.
Sinopoli said Joseph, who is currently suspended with pay, owned two tow trucks and a car rental agency.
Police allege Joseph received kickbacks from a network of tow truck drivers for the provision of stolen police radios, and got referrals to his car rental agency from people involved in collisions.
Sinopoli said police were always aware of Joseph’s car rental agency but did not know he owned two tow trucks.
Three days after Joseph’s arrest, a number of other raids throughout southern Ontario yielded police $35,000 and six tow trucks, along with seven more arrests.
“I do agree with you that the (towing) industry is rife with corruption, that doesn’t necessarily mean all tow truck drivers are corrupt,” Sinopoli said. “There are certain individuals taking advantage of the system and opportunities available to them to facilitate their business interests.”
The GTA tow truck industry has been the target of scrutiny for two years, after a turf war involving numerous arsons and at least one homicide.
All eleven men charged by Toronto police face offences including participating in a criminal organization.
They are each scheduled to appear in court at Old City Hall on Sept. 4.