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Police officer faces charges over allegedly staged car crashes

A Peel Police vehicle sits in front of a home in Bolton, Ont.

Peter Power/Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

A police officer with 18 years of experience has been arrested in connection with what investigators say was a series of staged car accidents in the Toronto area that led to fraudulent insurance claims.

Officers from the Peel Regional Police internal affairs bureau charged Constable Carlton Watson in Brampton on Thursday for allegedly helping report fake car accidents as legitimate collisions.

The allegations have not been proved. Reached at his home, Constable Watson had no comment on the charges.

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He is currently suspended with pay, Peel Regional Police said.

Constable Watson will be charged with uttering a fraudulent document, obstructing justice and breach of trust.

His arrest comes after an investigation into staged accidents that occurred in 2010, conducted by Peel's internal affairs bureau with the assistance of the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

According to the allegations, accidents were staged and then insurance claims were made for vehicle damage and injuries to the drivers and passengers. Multiple insurers paid out settlements after the accidents, police said in a press release.

Police also arrested and charged 46-year-old Brampton resident Wayne Isaacs in connection with the investigation, which is ongoing.

The allegations are an indication of the growing sophistication of such networks in southern Ontario in recent years.

Investigators have uncovered increasingly complex staged-accident scenarios involving tow truck drivers, mechanics and medical clinics who take part in schemes orchestrated to cash in on insurance payouts. Drivers are often paid to crash cars and seek treatment for fake injuries at clinics that are taking part in the scam.

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The issue of staged accidents is getting more attention from government and in the courts in Ontario, which is where most incidents are reported in Canada. The Ontario government said two weeks ago that it is establishing an anti-fraud task force to better detect, combat and prosecute cases of insurance fraud, particularly those involving staged accidents.

The province brought in reforms last fall, including lowering payouts for auto accidents in Ontario's no-fault insurance system as a way to reduce the incentive for fraud.

Rick Dubin, vice-president of investigative services at the IBC, an industry group, declined to comment on this specific case, but said the changes made in the fall have not reduced cases, as the province had expected. "Further reforms are needed to address this problem," Mr. Dubin said.

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