Murder and organized crime charges filed as police arrest 20 in tow truck feud
York Regional Police arrested 20 people and laid organized crime-related charges as a part of an ongoing investigation into the violence connected to the GTA’s tow truck industry.
Among those arrested in the multi-force Project Platinum includes a Toronto man who is charged with first-degree murder in relation to the 2018 Christmas Eve slaying of tow truck driver Soheil Rafipour, 33, in Richmond Hill, police said.
The news release reported Paramount Towing owned by Alexander Vinogradsky and other rival towing groups have been involved in defrauding insurance companies with vehicles involved in collisions and staged collisions.
Superintendent Mike Slack said the towing industry created allegiances and hierarchies to maintain control. The demand for territory increased and so did the need to control that territory with violence, he said.
The significant increase in violence between rival tow truck operators and the towing industry has led to a murder, attempted murders, shootings, assaults, threats and property damage, he said in a press conference.
The investigation, called Project Platinum, was launched in February. Several firearms, including restricted rifles, and large quantities of drugs, including cocaine and fentanyl, were seized.
“I think it is horrible what these tow truck turf wars are doing,” Elizabeth Weber owner of Ace’s Towing said. “We charge the same people the same money all the time. We don’t appreciate making money off the backs of other people and being dishonest.”
Ace’s Towing is on the board of directors of the Provincial Towing Association of Ontario.
“It creates a negative image about towing operators, I feel the government should regulate the industry across the province,” she said. “That would be beneficial to the consumer and the insurance companies.”
On April 30 and May 1, warrants were executed in Hamilton and Brantford where five suspects were taken into custody and charged, the press release stated.
On May 20, York police along with OPP and Toronto Police executed 21 warrants in Vaughan, Richmond Hill, Markham, Hamilton, Oakville, Toronto and Aurora. Three suspects were charged and arrested.
Companies that were charged worked alongside auto-repair shops and rental companies to carry out insurance fraud, police said.
The insurance companies in turn took legal action against the towing companies.
A Vaughan, Ont., law firm, Carr Law, which was representing an insurance company, became a target for violence as their office was shot up and they were forced to drop out of the investigation due to threats and attacks. Two Toronto men and another from Oakville are charged with attempt murder in that case.
Police seized 11 tow trucks, 16 handguns, nine rifles, one machine gun, an air pistol, one sawed-off shotgun and three high-capacity drum magazines in addition to thousands of rounds of ammunition.
Other weapons seized include two conductive energy weapons and brass knuckles. The assortment of drugs included five kilograms of fentanyl, 1.5 kilograms of cocaine, 1.25 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine, and 1.5 kilograms of cannabis
Police also seized more than $500,000 in currency.