An early morning fire that ripped through a home under construction in west Edmonton is under investigation by Edmonton police for possible links to an extortion scheme targeting members of the South Asian community.
Edmonton police believe the case is the latest in a string of arsons, threats
Wallis Snowdon · CBC News
· Posted: Jan 08, 2024 3:36 PM EST | Last Updated: 8 hours ago
Fire crews were called to a fire inside a home under construction in west Edmonton Monday morning. Police say the case is believed to be linked to a known extortion scheme in the city. (David Bajer/CBC)An early morning fire that ripped through a home under construction in west Edmonton is under investigation by police for possible links to an extortion scheme targeting members of the South Asian community.
Edmonton police said the fire, in the Secord neighbourhood, is believed to be the latest in a string of recent cases involving demands for money, threats and arson.
Crews were called to the fire, in the area of 98th Avenue and 225A Street, just after 4 a.m. Monday.
Edmonton Fire Rescue Services said the fire was brought under control about an hour later, after causing extensive damage to the structure.
The fire was so hot it melted the siding off a neighbouring home. No injuries were reported.
As of mid-morning, the gutted structure continued to smoulder. Firefighters remained at the scene, dousing hot spots.
Just before 6 a.m. Sunday, fire broke out inside a home under construction on Alwood Bend S.W. in the Allard neighbourhood.
Fire officials are taking the lead on the investigation. A spokesperson for the Edmonton Police Service said EPS investigators are prepared to take the lead on the Allard fire file if the official cause is determined to be arson.
A home under construction in west Edmonton was destroyed by fire Monday morning. Fire officials say no injuries were reported. (David Bajer/CBC)Monday’s fire in Secord is the latest in a string of similar suspicious fires with alleged links to the extortion scheme.
EPS said last week it was aware of at least 18 cases in the Edmonton area, dating back to October. The police service has charged a special team of investigators to look into the scheme.
Police said victims were facing demands that they provide large sums of money. The threats were being made over WhatsApp calls and texts.
Failure to pay results in arson or other property damage to new home builds, show homes and related property, police said.
The suspects have also been known to make follow-up demands for larger sums of money, leading to an escalation of violence and drive-by shootings, police said.
As of last week, six suspects had been arrested for shooting and arson incidents connected to the extortion scheme.
Police declined an interview Monday but said the investigation into the scheme remains ongoing.
Anyone who has received threats or might have other information about the incidents is asked to contact EPS investigators.
In a statement Monday, Edmonton Fire Rescue Services declined to comment on the extortion investigation related to Monday’s fire but said the service continues to investigate.
In a statement last week, EFRS said there were nine fires involving new homes or houses under construction between Nov. 1 and Jan. 2.
All but one of the nine has been deemed arson, and the remaining fire is under investigation as suspicious.
Similar reports in Ontario, B.C.The alleged extortion scheme is a trend that several police forces are seeing across the country.
In Ontario, Peel Regional Police launched their own investigative task force last month to look at the trend of extortion attempts “primarily targeted towards members of our South Asian business community.”
RCMP in Surrey, B.C., also issued a statement in November about extortion “targeting business owners throughout the Lower Mainland.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Wallis Snowdon is a journalist with CBC Edmonton focused on bringing stories to the website and the airwaves. Originally from New Brunswick, Wallis has reported in communities across Canada, from Halifax to Fort McMurray. She previously worked as a digital and current affairs producer with CBC Radio in Edmonton. Share your stories with Wallis at email@example.com.