‘Project Castle’ nabs 10 suspects in TTC collector booth robberies
WATCH ABOVE: Toronto police say they have made arrests in connection to a series of TTC collector booth robberies.
TORONTO – Toronto police have arrested 10 people, including a young offender, in connection with a series of armed robberies spanning a period of three months.
Investigators say the robberies took place between March 7 and May 28 at a total of 12 locations across the Greater Toronto Area including five TTC booths, two gas stations, two doughnut shops, one convenience store, one bank and one Cash Money location.
“They were orchestrated by three or more people at any given time wearing masks and armed with handguns,” said Hold Up Staff Inspector Mike Earl on the investigation dubbed “Project Castle” during a press conference Tuesday morning.
Police say they were able to connect the robberies together as some of them happened right after another.
“One TTC robbery happened on the 28th of April. Within minutes, Saks Fine Foods was robbed,” said Earl.
“On the 25th of May, we had three robberies — Scotia Bank, Tim Hortons, and gas station on Kinston Road. We started comparing the clothing and the M.O. Obviously they are the same people from the TTC.”
The investigation wrapped up last Thursday when Toronto police executed search warrants on a number of homes across the GTA. Police recovered three handguns, three replica handguns, a loaded .38 revolver and stolen TTC passes.
TTC CEO Andy Byford said he is relieved the suspects have been arrested as “these robberies have been going on” for far too long.
“Finally we have individuals in custody,” he said. “These were shocking incidents.”
“It is very traumatic. You don’t come to work expecting to have a gun pointed at you.”
Byford said most of the employees targeted in the robberies have returned to work while others are still taking time off due to the trauma.
Police say none of the victims were physically injured in any of the incidents.
Byford said the TTC has taken a number of steps to increase security at collector booths in an effort to deter crime including upgrading the CCTV camera system, adding more staff on duty at stations at night, changing the design of the collector booths and reducing cash at the station with the installation of Presto card machines.
The accused, including eight men, a woman and a 17-year-old teenage boy, have been charged with a total of 140 combined offences including armed robbery, disguise with intent, conspiracy to commit indictable offence and possession of property obtained by crime.
Earl said some of the suspects have criminal backgrounds and are “no strangers to police.” He added that six of the accused were directly involved with the TTC armed robberies and believes they moved on to robbing convenience stores, gas stations and doughnut stores when security was increased along the TTC.
Investigators say they linked the TTC robberies to other armed hold-ups by comparing the clothing the accused were wearing and what was said during the course of the robbery.
On May 28, after a financial institution, a doughnut store and a gas bar were robbed, police said a number of the accused crashed their vehicle in Durham Region. That vehicle was abandoned and police said it helped investigators track the suspects.
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The suspects first appeared in court on Friday and are scheduled to appear in court for bail hearings on Wednesday.
Police believe the accused may have committed further robberies and are asking anyone with information to come forward.