By DAVID LEA
Special to Focus
Halton police said 25 Halton residents, including several from Oakville, are among the victims of a pair of alleged identity theft labs, which were raided by police early this week.
Officers held a press conference yesterday, to discuss the raids and display evidence taken during the execution of five search warrants at residences in Milton, Mississauga, Brampton, and Toronto.
The raids yielded five arrests on more than 300 fraud-related charges, the seizure of various printers, scanners and other equipment, allegedly used in creating fake identification and cheques, $67,890 in Canadian currency and $354,000 in counterfeit U.S. currency.
Halton Police Chief Stephen Tanner said it is alleged the suspects would come into possession of stolen personal information, which would be used to manufacture fake driver’s licences and credit cards.
These documents, Tanner said, were then allegedly used to assume the victim’s identity to drain bank and credit funds.
Police also allege the suspects were in the business of selling and exchanging counterfeit American currency. It is believed the counterfeit money originated in Nigeria.
“With recent introduction of the Canadian polymer currency, financial predators are manipulating American currency,” said Tanner.
“Most Canadian merchants are not familiar with American currency, making it difficult for them to detect counterfeit U.S. bills.”
Tanner was tight-lipped on how police became aware of the alleged identity theft labs stating only the Halton Police Regional Fraud Bureau initiated an investigation a month ago into production of false identification and associated frauds in Halton.
Members of the Regional Fraud Bureau carried out the raids with the assistance of Durham Regional Police, Ontario Provincial Police, and the U.S. Secret Service.
Detectives John Mans and Brad Murray said they are aware of 100 victims, including 25 from Halton.
Mans said those involved in the alleged fraud were all unemployed with the illegal work serving as their only source of income.
The Provincial Asset Forfeiture Unit is investigating a series of large purchases made by the suspects.
Mans said a person’s identity can be stolen fairly easily with an identity thief gaining everything they need from a stolen piece of mail.
“There is not a lot of sophistication required,” said Mans. “A lot of the time all they need is a name, somebody’s social insurance number, credit card number, address and they can get a lot of that stuff when people don’t shred their bills or other legal documents and just place them in the recycling bin.”
In this case, Mans said it is alleged corrupt employees who have access to their client’s personal information may have been responsible for selling some information to the suspects.
Murray described the two labs, which were not working together, as sophisticated, noting they appeared to have templates for things like an Ontario driver’s licence.
Finding how the suspects came into possession of these templates, controlled by the Ministry of Transportation and Government of Canada, will be part of the continuing investigation. The suspects were also allegedly in possession of a device, which could place the necessary holograms on the driver’s licence.
Halton police are reminding residents to shred bills and other documents with personal information on them before throwing them away.
Residents should also review credit and banking statements regularly to check for unfamiliar purchases.
Christopher Corey Dewsbury, 31, of Milton is facing charges including possession of identity information and possession of instruments of forgery.
Jennifer Mary Bray, 24, of Milton faces charges including possession of identity information, possession of instruments of forgery, possession of a counterfeit mark and fraudulent use of a credit card.
Bisola Akinware, 37, of Brampton faces charges including possession of identity information, possession of instruments of forgery, forgery, possession of counterfeit money, possession of property obtained by crime and possession of forged documents.
Each is facing more than 100 criminal charges.
Cynthia Marfo, 35, of Toronto is charged with possession of identity information, two counts of possession of instruments of forgery and forgery.
Stella Owusu, 44, of Toronto is charged with possession of counterfeit money.
Police expect to lay more charges as the investigation progresses.
— Metroland News Service
By DAVID LEA