Toronto Police Takedown Massive ID Theft Ring

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TORONTO – NEWS – The Toronto Police Service announced the service has completed the takedown of an organized hierarchy committing millions of dollars in identity theft and financial frauds, including the seizure of thousands of stolen gift cards.

Dubbed Project Hydra, the year-long investigation led officers to identify a chain of people from low-level identity thieves to counterfeit identification makers and distributors. Four people have been arrested and charged. Collectively, they face almost 100 criminal charges.

In September 2020, the Financial Crimes Unit – Corporate Section, started an investigation into multiple occurrences of identity fraud and bank account takeovers. Suspects would allegedly steal the identities and personal banking information of unsuspecting victims.

Using this information, they would create fraudulent identification and then employ other suspects to enter the financial institutions for the purposes of taking over the accounts.

After identifying the location in which suspects would pick up the fraudulent identification, investigators were able to secure six criminal code search warrants for September 2, 2021.

As a result, three people were arrested.

Vladislav Tsyganok, 25, of Vaughan, was charged with:

1. two counts of Conspiracy to Commit an Indictable Offence
2. three counts of Trafficking in Identity Information
3. two counts of Transfers an Identity Document

Jamal Karama Sharif, 34, of Newmarket and Toronto, was charged with:

1. Conspiracy to Commit Indictable Offence
2. three counts of Identity Theft
3. Fraud (Over)
4. Fraud (Under)
5. five counts of Possession of an Identity Document
6. Attempt Fraud (Under)
7. three counts of Possession Proceeds of Property Obtained by Crime

Asmerom Tsegay, 31, of Toronto, was charged with:

1. two counts of Conspiracy to Commit Indictable Offence
2. two counts of Identity Theft
3. two counts of Transfers an Identity Document
4. Fraud (Under) C.C. 380(1)(b)
5. two counts of Attempt Fraud (Under)
6. Obstruct Peace Officer

On September 24, 2021, a fourth person was arrested.

Nadia Campitelli, 46, of no fixed address, was charged with:

1. Conspiracy to Commit Indictable Offence
2. nine counts of Fraud (Over)
3. twenty counts of Personation to obtain property interest
4. twenty-two counts of Use a forged document
5. four counts of Fraud Under $5,000
6. Attempt Fraud over $5000
7. seven counts of Attempt Fraud Under $5000

The following items were seized during the warrants:

– fraudulent identifications
– $70,000 cash
– a Porsche Panamera, valued at $100,000
– electronic evidence including hard drives, cell phones, computer printers, etc.

In addition, investigators also discovered a business believed to be involved in the distribution of fraudulent gift cards. Officers recovered 37,000 gift cards, with potential values of $50 to $500 each, and 1,300 pre-paid credit cards, with an estimated value of $216,000.

The investigation into the seized gift cards is ongoing and more arrests and charges are possible.

To reduce the risk of being victimized, consider the following tips:

– never send your personal financial information through email
– shred personal information before putting it in the garbage or recycling
– never share your PIN with anyone
– never click the link on text messages or emails from unsolicited sources.
– be aware of postal mail not arriving as before, as there is the potential for identity thieves changing the address
– only carry with you the identification you absolutely need and secure the rest
– regularly check your credit rating with Equifax Canada or TransUnion Canada
– when purchasing a gift card, check the receipt at time of purchase and compare data on receipt to the numbers on the card
– physically examine gift card for signs of tampering
– use a gift card immediately after it’s purchased
– avoid buying gift cards online or checking gift card balances on sites that are not the store’s official website.