By on May 27, 2020

In the millimetre-deep world of online sociopolitical commentary, the United States is portrayed as a lawless land of heartless thugs and capitalist greed. Its neighbor to the north, on the other hand, is often pictured as a doe-eyed innocent whose heart is too inherently pure for any wrongdoing. A superficial take, for sure, and certainly one that didn’t take Ontario’s towing industry into account.

North of Lake Erie and Ontario, around the small, idyllic hamlet of Toronto, police just laid nearly 200 charges against tow truck operators who they say waged a violent, multi-year war against each other. What started out as simple rivalry between tow companies devolved into a full-scale conflict that boasted every ingredient of organized crime: guns, drugs, money, intimidation, arson, and murder.

Dozens more arrests are expected.

Project Platinum, a joint effort of the York police, Ontario Provincial Police, Toronto police, and the Canada Revenue Agency, yielded 19 arrests on Tuesday, with perhaps 30 more expected in the days to come.

The raids and arrests targeted four criminal tow cartels in the Greater Toronto Area, authorities say. In addition to very unsavory business practices, the companies allegedly pulled out all the stops to punish rivals and keep the law at bay. They also grabbed cash wherever they could find it, diversifying their operations with drug trafficking, elaborate frauds involving staged accidents, and good old-fashioned robbery.

Other robberies looked good on paper.

“Over time, unscrupulous companies and the people working for them have found ways to inflate costs, and victimize consumers.” said Insp. Mike Slack, head of Organized Crime and Intelligence Services with York police. The four cartels partnered with willing repair shops and rental agencies to make a bigger buck off unsuspecting victims, investigators allege.

From the National Post:

Along with 11 tow trucks, officers seized a machine gun, 16 handguns, 12 shotguns, nine rifles, a sawn-off shotgun and three high-capacity drum magazines; thousands of rounds of ammunition; five kilograms of fentanyl, 1.5 kilograms of cocaine, 1.25 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine, 1.5 kilograms of cannabis; and more than $500,000 in cash.

The competition for hooking up a vehicle after a collision is about far more than the tow fee, Slack said.

Police allege the real money is in scams and schemes after the tow — from rental cars, inflated repair work, insurance fraud and physiotherapy claims. Damage to cars was enhanced once in the shops or made up entirely. Accidents were even staged, he said.

Among those arrested was Alexander Vinogradsky of Vaughan, Ontario, the owner/operator of Paramount Towing, who stands charged with fraud, gangsterism, and participating in a criminal organization. Other suspects arrested are said to be linked to the towing-related Christmas Eve 2018 murder of Soheil Rafipour.

When one Vaughan law firm started hitting back at the companies, violence erupted. After having some success in combating unscrupulous towing companies, the firm’s office was set ablaze early last year. Soon after, an employee was assaulted and robbed in the parking lot by a gunman. After that, a volley of shots blasted through the firm’s windows during business hours. Three suspects thought to be involved in the law firm attacks were rounded up in this week’s sweep.

Via the arrests, police say they also foiled a murder-for-hire plot.

It’s a true wild west show out there,” John Henderson of the Provincial Towing Association of Ontario said in an interview with CBC News.

“It’s gotten to the point where there could be as much as 60 per cent of the towing industry in the GTA [that] is run by the criminal element.”

Police say the growing turf war between the tow cartels has thus far resulted in four murders, one of which occurred only this month. Some 30 tow trucks were torched, two of them just a couple of weeks ago. The only solution to the problem, police and tow association officials say, is greater regulatory oversight by the provincial government.

[Image: ThamKC/Shutterstock]

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23 Comments on “Murder, Arson, and Hundreds of Charges: Cops Wade Into Canuck Towing War...”

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Not the first time that there has been a violent turf war and allegations of criminal influence in the towing industry in the GTA.

    There is too much money involved in an industry that is largely unregulated and where the ‘customer’ is often emotionally distraught, physically injured or in an emergency situation. This leaves them even more vulnerable.

    I purchase Auto Association premium memberships for all of my family members to ensure that they don’t have to rely on an ‘independent’ or ‘pirate’ tow.

  • avatar

    Towing? Crime gangs? Imagine my shock.

  • avatar

    “What started out as simple rivalry between tow companies devolved into a full-scale conflict that boasted every ingredient of organized crime: guns, drugs, money, intimidation, arson, and murder.”

    In other words, Tuesday in Chicago ;-)

  • avatar

    Russian mob.

    Why do we let them in?

  • avatar

    Even “soliciting” regular tow services to random motorists (in need of help) is illegal in the US.

    It’s totally insane that Canada allows “pirate towing”, abolished in the US since the early ’70s.

    Clearly it leads to turf wars, racing to auto accidents and invites gangsters to the industry along with their gangster ways.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      In the mid 1980’s while driving on Highway 401 in Toronto, a brake drum ‘flew’ off a vehicle being towed on the inside lane ahead of me and struck my windshield. Thankfully it was ‘flush’ when it hit and while cracking the windshield did not shatter it. It then went up and scraped along my roof before falling of the back, breaking the rear wiper on my hatch.

      I was able to maintain control and even get the tow truck driver to pull over. We were able to ‘negotiate’ a settlement.

  • avatar

    Towing, much like trash collection, is an industry that is difficult to “break in” to. After watching “The Irishman” movie, apparently even laundries are/were in that category at least in the northeast.

  • avatar

    You ain’t seen nothing yet. Welcome Moscow! Now we are talking.

  • avatar

    Shocked! That’ll be the last time I blow a 401 tow truck driver for meth!

  • avatar
    Ol Shel

    I’m a bit surprised that the gun attack and arson of the law offices wasn’t effective in averting attention.

    We have guys like this in the US, too. They’re called fixers.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    #Fakenews. Machine guns are illegal in Canada.

    • 0 avatar

      Right, because Canadians never do anything illegal

      • 0 avatar

        You’ll be detained trying to enter Canada if you stole a pack of bubble gum when you were 8.

        • 0 avatar

          You can’t get into the US, not that I have the least desire to do so to meet people who knowingly voted for Trump, believing he’d drain the swamp when he intended to fill it and is doing an A1 job at that, if you admit to ever having smoked dope, which is legally sold here — in government liquor stores in my province. Gotta save you pure Americans from noxious weed as God and the Border agents intended. How do you think we’re getting through staying at home wondering where coronavirus spores are drifting in from? We only go out for groceries and dope, then settle back for, er, what was I saying, lemme think, hang on, um … oh yeah, tow truck drivers waiting to argue over who gets to tow a wreck, that’s Toronto. Bin that way for years. Typical. We don’t even have lemon laws for dud cars like you socialist Yankees. Yes sir, you’re on yer own up this way. It’s where the push the car over the cliff after you phone in it’s been stolen then call the insurance company international business model started. Hey, those were MY cookies, you a*shole. Jeez, now I gotta put on a mask and go buy some more. Fig newtons, yeah.

          • 0 avatar

            My family used to enjoy watching “Highway Thru Hell” (British Columbia) and “Heavy Rescue: 401” (Ontario). So that’s what I know about Canadian recovery.

            When I worked in Detroit, would sometimes go south to Windsor for Chinese food. While my parents were visiting, we decided to make that run and I drove their car. Made the mistake of rather flippantly answering some questions from CBSA regarding the contents of the vehicle (my parents do not travel light, and had fruit in the trunk). There was no waterboarding involved, but as the driver I got pulled aside for some stern lecturing.

            I’ve had a Canadian boss and a Japanese boss. The Canadian one was better.

            Don’t miss The International Towing & Recovery Hall of Fame Museum, located a few miles from the birthplace of the wrecker:

  • avatar

    Always crazy hearing how complicated insurance-related situations can be in other places.

    I guess you should plan your towing service and repair shop ahead of time in Ontario.

  • avatar

    WHEE ! .

    Who let the dogs put / trolls in ? .


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