14 arrested in Montreal and Laval in 'grandparent scam' totalling $2.2M

14 arrested in Montreal and Laval in 'grandparent scam' totalling $2.2M

An anti-fraud investigation involving police from Quebec, Ontario and the United States has led to the arrest of 14 people linked to so-called grandparent scams alleged to have defrauded Canadians of $2.2 million since February 2022.

The 14 suspects, 24 to 34 years old, were arrested in Montreal and Laval, where they had recently moved from Toronto, according to Sûreté du Québec (SQ) Sgt. Benoit Dubé.

This year alone, police allege the group behind these scams defrauded 126 people across Canada of about $739,000. Fifteen of those victims lost money several times over, totalling $243,000.

Most of the victims, who are between the ages of 46 and 95, live in Ontario and were reached via landline by suspects pretending to be law enforcement officers telling them their grandchild was in police custody. The caller would request bail money to release the victim's family member.

According to an Ontario Provincial Police news release, "in most cases, 'money mules' (unsuspecting couriers) were used to collect the money."

"It's an unacceptable crime. It's a crime that causes a lot of harm to these people, who've often spent their lives working toward saving to be able to enjoy a happy retirement," Dubé said, adding that in many cases, it was impossible to recover the victims' losses.

Police are working with banks to recover at least $559,000 of those funds.

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The police task force investigating grandparent scams, called Project Sharp, is led by Ontario Provincial Police in partnership with the SQ. In total, 11 police forces have contributed to related investigations.

Dubé said police had found ties between the suspects and "traditional Italian organized crime."

In total, 56 charges have been laid. Four suspects are still in custody and will appear in court in the coming days. The 10 remaining suspects have been released and will appear in court next month.