A married Toronto-area couple are among 14 who have been arrested following a months-long money-laundering investigation police say involves 'well over' $8 million in phoney cheques and stolen merchandise.
At a news conference at Toronto police headquarters Friday, Det. Cst. Michael Lane said the investigation, which began last June, revealed an “elaborate scheme,” that involved more than $8 million worth of fraudulent cheques and stolen merchandise. Some of the fraudulent property was on display at the news conference.
Lane said that officers launched an investigation after a fraudulent cheque was received at a money-service business. Police allege a woman tried to cash a certified cheque, which was later determined to be fraudulent.
After further investigation, Lane said, officers found that fraudulent cheques had been issued using similar account information. The fake cheques had been cashed at multiple financial institutions, police say.
“The banks then learned these cheques were worthless, and the suspects and other people involved were able to get away with the funds,” Lane said.
Lane alleges “counterfeit or synthetic fake identification was used to open up business accounts, personal accounts, get credit products, loans – anything in relation to obtaining funds.”
He added that with the funds, the suspects were able to obtain merchandise, including high-end vehicles. As part of the “elaborate scheme,” the suspects opened businesses under fake names, Lane said.
“Part of this scheme was also to further solidify the business by creating websites so that if financial companies would try to ascertain whether or not this business was legitimate, they could provide information in relation to that business online.”
Police said they determined that “well over” $8 million has been “lost and laundered.”
In early February, police arrested one male suspect, identified as Balasubramaniam Shanjeefkaran, 35, and then searched his home.
Shanjeefkaran and Sukanya Panchalingam, 30, both of Ajax, are facing multiple charges including fraud over $5,000, possession of proceeds obtained by crime, and laundering proceeds obtained by crime. Police say Panchalingam worked for a financial institution as a fraud-detection agent but investigators are still working to determine the significance of that role.
A total of 14 people have been arrested in connection to the months-long investigation, however, police allege the married couple played a bigger role in the scheme.
Panchalingam was arrested on Monday. Police also confirmed that Panchalingam and Shanjeefkaran are married.
Toronto police say people as well as corporations have been victimized in relation to the investigation and they are asking for assistance from the public as they believe there are more victims. “Identity theft is a huge issue for people, it can turn their lives upside down,” Lane said.