The Ontario Provincial Police has laid criminal charges against an inspector with 33 years on the force as part of its internal probe into towing-related corruption.
Inspector Steve Grosjean, 62, commander for the highway safety division’s Mississauga detachment, was arrested on Tuesday and charged with breach of trust.
OPP spokesperson Bill Dickson declined to offer any details Thursday about the specific allegations against Insp. Grosjean.
He is the fourth – and highest ranking – officer to be charged as part of the towing corruption probe, with charges announced against three veteran constables last month. In an interview with The Globe and Mail at that time, OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique said that the officers had given preference to a particular tow company “in exchange for benefit to the officers.”
That towing company was allegedly Steve’s Towing, owned by Sutheshkumar (Steve) Sithambarpillay, who was one of the featured towing operators on the Discovery Canada reality show Heavy Rescue 401. He has also been charged as part of the probe – though the specific nature of his alleged relationship with the officers remains unclear.
In addition to the four OPP officers facing criminal charges, another four individuals – three officers and a civilian member – have also been suspended with pay as part of the investigation, though they have not been charged.
Asked why the OPP is investigating corruption within its own ranks, Mr. Dickson said “even though the investigation was led jointly by our OPP criminal investigation branch and the professional standards unit … we did have assistance from the Toronto Police Service.”
“While the commissioner and all of our senior command staff have full and complete confidence in the members of our own organization to complete a thorough and unbiased investigation,” he said, “we do have an external senior officer from the Toronto Police Service assisting, because there may be some investigative tasks that could be more appropriately handled by an external investigator rather than our own members.”
The Toronto Police Service is also actively investigating towing-related corruption within its ranks. Just last week, it announced a slew of fraud charges against Constable Ronald Joseph, who was already facing charges connected to tow-truck and rental-car businesses he was operating on the side. The Ottawa Police Service has also charged three of its officers with towing-related corruption.
The Greater Toronto Area towing industry particularly has been plagued with violence for more than two years, as tow-truck drivers compete for territory within a segment of the industry known as collision towing or “accident chasing.”
A car involved in a crash will likely need repairs, and the driver might even need physiotherapy – and some of those peripheral businesses are willing to pay tow-truck drivers to bring them business. As a result, a single crash can yield thousands of dollars.
More than 50 trucks have been burned, fist fights and shootings have erupted at crash scenes, and at least four men with ties to the industry have been killed.
A York Regional Police-led operation into the towing industry has resulted in charges against more than 30 people since last spring.
Premier Doug Ford pledged last spring to crack down on the corruption and violence, but those efforts have lagged since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
But as illustrated Wednesday, when two tow trucks were torched in Toronto’s east end, the turf war continues.
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