Husband and wife charged in ‘elaborate’ fraud scheme worth $8M
Rachael D'Amore, CTV Toronto
Published Friday, February 17, 2017 6:48AM EST
Last Updated Friday, February 17, 2017 12:47PM EST
A husband and wife have been charged in connection with an alleged elaborate scheme that bilked banks, businesses and people out of more than $8 million.
The investigation, dubbed Project Fellowship, began on June 28, 2016 after a woman attempted to cash a fraudulent certified cheque.
Speaking to reporters at a news conference Friday, Det. Const. Micheal Lane said the bank called Toronto police to report the fraudulent cheque and the investigation quickly spiraled into numerous other claims.
Lane said investigators learned that “multiple hundreds” of cheques were being deposited into personal and business accounts using similar account information and later determined to be “worthless.”
In each case, Lane said the suspects were able to make off with the funds.
“After that portion of the investigation, it was also revealed that counterfeit or synthetic fake identification was used to open up business accounts, personal accounts, get credit products, loans, and anything in relation to obtaining funds,” he said.
Lane said the suspects used fake IDs to open up multiple falsified businesses including several with the Ontario Ministry of Government and Consumer Services.
“Part of the scheme was to further solidify the business by creating websites, so if financial companies would ascertain whether it was legitimate, they could provide information to that business online,” he said.
The funds were then, in part, used to purchase luxury vehicles such as Mercedes, a Land Rover and BMW’s as well as heavy equipment.
“Part of the investigation is also that these vehicles are then being shipped out to Quebec. Some have been located in containers as well as in auctions in Quebec,” he said.
Though Lane could not speak to how the fake IDs were made, he said many of the people in the photos on the cards appear to be real people.
Over the weekend, Toronto police executed a search warrant at a residence in Ajax where more than $8 million worth of fraudulent cheques and stolen merchandise was allegedly yielded. A large amount of documents -- including dozens of folders filled with paperwork provided by banks when a new account is opened -- and fake IDs were also found at the home.
A suspect identified as 35-year-old Balasubramaniam Shanjeefkaran was arrested on Feb. 10 and charged with fraud over $5,000, possession of proceeds obtained by crime over $5,000, laundering proceeds obtained by crime, unauthorized possession of a counterfeit mark and conspiracy to commit an indictable offence.
He made an appearance in court on Saturday.
Following the search warrant, Lane said the investigation led police to arrest a second suspect.
Ajax resident Sukanya Panchalingam, 30, was arrested on Feb. 13 and charged with fraud over $5,000, possession of proceeds obtained by crime over $5,000 and laundering proceeds obtained by crime.
Investigators believe Panchalingam worked for an unnamed financial institution as a fraud detection agent, though Lane said her duties in that position are still under investigation.
She is expected to make an appearance in court on April 6.
Lane said a total of 14 people have been arrested in connection with the investigation and that “some funds” have been recovered.
“This investigation is still ongoing and I’m seeking the assistance of the media, as I believe, there are multiple other victims,” he said. “Identify theft is a huge issue for people, it can turn their world upside down.”