Toronto cops accused of shaking down tow truck industry for kickbacks

By Florence Louie and James Rodgers, CNN

The Toronto Police Service is investigating allegations of a homicide, arson and beatings that may have been covered up in exchange for kickbacks paid to police officers.

Police have so far revealed only the initial tip-off that ignited their investigation into alleged connections to a crime ring run by tow truck drivers and involving cash and cars, but they say they have enough evidence to lay charges.

Police said they have reviewed more than 40,000 pages of evidence to form their case against 19 people including former Toronto police officer David Del Mastro, who resigned in 2012 when his superiors learned of his alleged misdeeds and later ran unsuccessfully for the Conservative Party of Canada.

The officers referred to in the police documents, who themselves can not be identified, have not been arrested, and so far they have not been charged.

The details in these documents, however, are unsettling. Chief Mark Saunders says officers are more likely to be convicted of bribing a child predator than of something as serious as an organized crime conspiracy.

According to a search warrant document obtained by CNN, Del Mastro alleged in a taped conversation that he received $6,000 for each unauthorized police search of a tow truck company. According to a police report, Del Mastro received kickbacks totaling $3,500 in 2014 for allowing police to search a tow truck and retrieving the owner’s vehicle without a search warrant.

To further entice, del Mastro allegedly drove someone to a police location to retrieve a car after a suspect was taken into custody. Del Mastro only had to drive to the police station in his uniform, and otherwise he was free to leave without police arrest.

When asked for comment del Mastro said he couldn’t discuss anything related to the investigation but that “if and when charges are laid it’s my hope that charges will be laid properly.”

Among the other allegations contained in a search warrant report, Del Mastro admitted that a tow truck driver was physically beaten while attempting to install an intercom to the tow truck company, a motorist was kidnapped to prevent him from discussing a tow charge with his attorney, and at least one witness, stated in a sworn affidavit that he witnessed someone being shot outside of a tow truck company during a botched traffic stop in 2015.

Del Mastro was arrested in 2010 for filing false expense reports to the Conservative party while he was the parliamentary assistant to former MP Dean Del Mastro, Michael’s then-fiancee. Del Mastro was convicted of three charges of breaking election finance rules and sentenced to two years of probation, 40 hours of community service and a $65,000 fine.

But then other officers went after his reputation on another matter.

More than a year after it apologized to Michael Del Mastro for the expenses scandal, Toronto police revealed in November 2016 that it planned to investigate misconduct by some officers in his detail.

“We are not sure why this investigation started (but) it’s very clear that some officers at that time brought in these allegations regarding that particular shift and sent them to the DPP’s office and that was the beginning of the investigation,” Toronto Police Association spokesman Mike McCormack said in the time.

Toronto police confirmed to CNN that the investigation does indeed concern people working under a temporary assignment from Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation, a group tasked with enforcing tow truck laws.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Transportation told CNN that since the alleged violations occurred “throughline” — meaning before it was created — that investigation is not expected to conclude any time soon.

During the investigation, a retired Ontario Ontario Provincial Police detective made allegations against a number of police officers, saying the accused were instigating the beatings to discourage other witnesses from coming forward.

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