Police have cracked an international telephone scam that allegedly defrauded unsuspecting seniors of an estimated $3-million.
Seven people from the Greater Toronto Area are facing multiple charges in connection with the alleged operation, Halton Regional Police said Wednesday.
In the swindle - known as "an emergency scam" or "the grandson scam" - the suspects allegedly phoned senior citizens claiming to be a grandchild needing money for bail after getting arrested while on vacation. After the impostor pleaded with the target not to tell other relatives, someone purporting to be a lawyer or police officer provided instructions for wiring money.
"The emergency scam targets seniors, a vulnerable sector of our community, and cruelly plays upon their emotions to swindle them out of thousands of dollars," Chief Gary Crowell told reporters.
Police said the suspects, working from Oakville and Mississauga, made about 200 phone calls a day, ensnaring an average of 15 to 20 victims who sent between $2,500 to $6,000 each.
Since November, the alleged operation raked in an estimated $3-million, which investigators said was wired to an offshore account.
The majority of victims - which police peg in the hundreds or even thousands - were Americans. Canadians were also targeted.
Members of the alleged group face charges including participating in a criminal organization, conspiracy to defraud the public, fraud over $5,000 and impersonating a police officer.
Chief Crowell said two suspects were nabbed by Montreal police as they were attempting to leave the country.
Charged are: Domenico Piccinini, 42, of Oakville; Fiona Badran, 31, of Oakville; Farid Hamdan, 26, of Mississauga; Wyatt Trottier, 26, of Mississauga; Jenny Pak, 30, of Richmond Hill; Daniel Campos, 27, of Mississauga; and Ewelina Zapalski, 26, of Mississauga.