A Toronto Police Service (TPS) officer is among 11 people facing 50 charges in a 10-month anti-corruption investigation led by the Service’s Professional Standards Unit (PSU).
Investigators are alleging that 47-year-old Const. Richard Joseph, of 22 Division, and the others arrested have been involved in organized crime and have links to the tow truck industry.
At a news conference on June 22, Supt. Domenic Sinopoli said the investigation started in August 2019 with the theft of TPS encrypted radios.
“What we learned was that a consortium of tow truck drivers were in possession of stolen police radios and were utilizing the encrypted transmissions to facilitate their business interests,” said Sinopoli. “The transmissions were broadcasted to other tow truck drivers for a fee through an internet-based app.”
Sinopoli said the consortium operated mainly in 22, 13 and 32 Divisional boundaries.
He is alleging that Joseph was responsible for the theft of a police radio that was provided to the consortium.
“The stolen radio was cloned and put back into TPS circulation,” Sinopoli noted. “The officer was receiving monetary compensation for informing the said group on accident locations.”
Joseph, police say, owned two trucks that the group operated and was operating a car rental agency.
“The officer would receive monetary compensation for the two trucks, kick-backs for the tips he provided and referrals to his car rental agency,” Sinopoli pointed out.
As part of the investigation, police stopped a tow truck driver on May 9 for dangerous driving on Hwy. 400
A TPS radio was seized from 27-year-old Kevin Lima, of Barrie, who was the truck operator. He was charged with dangerous driving and released on the scene.
Sinopoli said the investigation into the stolen radio revealed it belonged to 22 Division. When examined by TPS technicians, it was also revealed that the radio was a cloned version of the one seized from Lima.
“What this illustrates is that the tow operator had a genuine TPS radio in his possession while our officers were using a cloned version,” said Sinopoli.
On May 26, search warrants executed in Brampton, Barrie and Toronto turned up a TPS radio that was reported lost or stolen from 14 Division, numerous radios and radio parts belonging to several organizations and parts that were used for cloning.
On June 9, three tow truck drivers in a single vehicle attended a parking lot at 100 Billy Bishop Way in Toronto.
With assistance from York Regional Police, they were arrested. A TPS radio and a loaded nine-millimetre handgun were located in the vehicle.
Lima along with 21-year-old Jacob Villeneuve Portela, of Toronto, and 27-year-old Giuseppe Carfora, of Guelp,h were charged with firearm-related offences and possession of a stolen radio. Lima was also charged with one count of failing to comply with probation and Carfora, who at the time was also the subject of a separate but simultaneous drug trafficking investigation, face numerous drug-related charges.
On June 15, Joseph was arrested. He faces nine charges, including three counts of breach of trust and trafficking in property obtained by crime.
Three days later, search warrants executed at five residential and seven commercial premises in Southern and Northern Ontario and in the Greater Toronto Area led to Joseph and 11 people being taken into custody.
The search warrants also led to the seizure of $35,000 in cash and six tow trucks belonging to three different companies.
The other accused are 50-year-old Mark Wolfe, of Toronto; 21-year-old Leonardo Ciulla, of Mississauga; 32-year-old Hernani Capela of Vaughan, 28-year-old Michael Carreiro, of Mississauga; 49-year-old Francesco Caruso, of Toronto; 39-year-old Tyson Plourde, of Brampton; and 41-year-old Mike Portela, of Toronto.
A total of seven of the accused are tow truck drivers.
Sinopli thanked Insp. Brett Nicol and his team of dedicated officers for their commitment to the highest standards of TPS and the assistance and commitment of various units within TPS that assisted in the highly sensitive and complicated investigation.
He also acknowledged York Regional Police and the Ontario Provincial Police for their role in the investigation.
Chief Mark Saunders reiterated that the Service is dedicated to keeping the city safe and making arrests where criminal activity impacts community members’ safety.
“Integrity and transparency are key to public trust for us and this Service and we are always striving to strengthen our relationships with the communities that we serve,” he said.
“Each member of the Toronto Police Service is held accountable to meeting that public trust.”
The 11 accused are scheduled to make court appearances on September 4 at Old City Hall.
The investigation remains ongoing.
Anyone with information is asked to contact police at 416-808-2800, Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-TIPS (8477) or online at 222tips.com.