Police announce arrests after probe into organized crime and violence in tow truck industry
4 min read
Police say the Greater Toronto Area has been a staging ground for violence in recent months, with rival tow truck companies allegedly fighting over profits from the towing of vehicles and frauds committed after the initial tow.
Several organized crime groups working in the towing industry have been using violence and property damage as a way to grab control and territory within the industry in southern Ontario, York Regional Police said Tuesday, while announcing multiple arrests. In a news release, police said that investigators from York police, Ontario Provincial Police, Toronto police and the Canada Revenue Agency had launched a joint forces investigation dubbed Project Platinum in response to murders, attempted murders, assaults, arsons, threats and property damage in the region. Police said the Greater Toronto Area has been a staging ground for violence in recent months, with rival tow truck companies fighting over profits from the towing of vehicles and alleged frauds after the initial tow. Investigators allege that Paramount Towing, which is owned and operated by Alexander Vinogradsky, along with other rival towing companies, have been defrauding insurance companies with vehicles involved in collisions and staged collisions. Police announced 20 arrests in total. Mohamad El-Zahawi, 38, is facing a charge of first-degree murder, while Vinogradsky faces charges of participating in a criminal organization, alongside a host of other charges. Police also allege in the release that towing companies then partnered with auto repair shops and car and truck rental companies to carry out their frauds. York Regional Police Supt. Mike Slack said Tuesday that organized crime like this begins with an opportunity to make money, and a level of greed that leads to criminal behaviour and violence. "The towing industry and its lack of regulations have bred exactly that environment," he said in a video posted by police. "Over time, unscrupulous companies and the people working for them have found ways to inflate costs, and victimize consumers." Slack alleged that a combination of fraudulent billing, repairs and physiotherapy claims…