A probe that began in 2014 thanks to an anonymous tip on the Toronto Transit Commission's (TTC) integrity line has now produced its first criminal convictions. Thursday afternoon, 10 current and former TTC employees were charged with fraud for their role in a massive insurance scam centred around false health benefit claims.
The claims were made through a North York orthotics store called Healthy Fit. Owner Adam Smith and employee Savatah Nget reportedly "counselled and conspired" with TTC workers who would receive benefits money from Manulife, the TTC's insurer at the time, and split it with the Healthy Fit representatives.
According to police, Healthy Fit has also run a similar scam with city of Toronto employees, which ran up approximately $96,000 in claims. Meanwhile, the TTC scam has resulted in the submission of more than $5-million worth of claims.
Though these are the first criminal charges to arise from the TTC-related wrongdoings, 150 TTC employees have either been fired or resolved to either retire or resign in order to avoid dismissal. The scam shines an embarrassing light on an already oft-criticized organization, which now has some damage control to do.
"It's incredibly serious," said TTC spokesperson Brad Ross. "This is public money and people will be held to account. We want to bring an end to this."
He added that the TTC has been "very open and transparent with the public on this and we will continue to be."
But as TTC CEO Andy Byford emphasized in a letter released to TTC employees Thursday afternoon, this scandal should not diminish the volumes of TTC workers who go about their occupations with dedication and integrity.
"[We will] not allow a few to ruin our collective, well-earned reputation," said Byford. "The vast majority of you, I know, would never dream of defrauding our benefits plan, putting it at risk for the rest of us. Hold your heads high as we root out the bad apples."