Metrolinx continues to share Presto users’ data without requiring warrants

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Law enforcement officers are increasingly seeking access to personal information stored on transit riders’ Presto fare cards, with requests for the data spiking by 47 per cent in 2018 compared to the year before.

And while Metrolinx, the provincial agency that controls Presto, only acceded to a minority of the requests, in 22 instances related to law enforcement investigations or suspected offences the agency divulged card users’ information without requiring a warrant or court order, a practice that has troubled rights groups since its was first exposed by the Star two years ago.

“Broadly, the concern is that it’s very important that a mass transit system, a public transit system, doesn’t become a system of mass surveillance,” said Brenda McPhail, director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association’s privacy, technology and surveillance project.

Metrolinx spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins said in a statement the agency “appropriately balances the commitment to protecting the privacy of Presto card users and maintaining the safety and security of the transit system and its passengers.”

“Staff believe that the current process and policy provides the level of oversight and rigour that is required,” she said.

The figures on Presto information requests are contained in Metrolinx’s second annual report on its privacy policy, which will be discussed at the agency’s board meeting Thursday.

The report shows:

While experts agree that warrants shouldn’t be required in exigent circumstances such as when a rider is believed missing, McPhail said in other cases Metrolinx should require a warrant.

“A warrant provides people with the assurance that the validity of the request from a law enforcement body has been judicially reviewed” and that fulfilled requests “have reached a threshold that’s been adjudicated by a judge and not just a transit employee,” said McPhail, whose organization has formally provided feedback to Metrolinx on its privacy policy.

McPhail said that while Metrolinx is taking positive steps such as publishing the annual report and regularly reviewing its policy, there is a “big hole” in its reporting because the agency doesn’t say how many fulfilled requests lead to a successful outcome, such as charges being laid against someone suspected of a crime. She argued publishing that information would help determine whether law enforcement requests for Presto data are generally reasonable.

Aikins said the outcomes of fulfilled requests are out of Metrolinx’s control and consequently it doesn’t track them, but “we do know internally” that sharing Presto data has helped find missing transit users.

Aikins said Metrolinx will share Presto information without a warrant under certain conditions, such as when “there is a reasonable basis to believe that an offence has occurred” on Metrolinx’s property, such as if a rider assaults a GO Transit bus driver.

In those instances, the agency “will limit the amount of information it discloses to what is relevant and necessary relating to the specific offence,” she said.

According to the report, Metrolinx disclosed customers’ Presto travel records 32 times, and shared registered information such as their name and address 20 times. Because information was shared in only 35 instances, the numbers indicate that in some cases both a cardholder’s travel information and name and address were shared.

The report says Metrolinx rejected requests or asked that they be modified for reasons that included the request being too broad.

In most cases, law enforcement asked for information in relation to a suspected offence committed on transit system property, but in cases where the suspected offence took place elsewhere, Metrolinx requested a court order. The agency also requested a warrant when officers asked for financial transaction information.

The requests were made by Metrolinx transit officers and police forces in Durham, Peel, Toronto, York Region, Hamilton, South Simcoe, Waterloo, Ottawa and Montreal.

The report doesn’t break down on which Ontario transit system the Presto cards that were subject of the requests were used, but more than half of trips paid for with the fare card are on the TTC.

Metrolinx committed to publishing an annual report on law enforcement requests for Presto data in December 2017, after the Star revealed the agency had been quietly sharing customer data with police.

On Monday, a spokesperson for Transportation Minister Jeff Yurek referred questions about Metrolinx sharing Presto data to the office Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services Sylvia Jones.

A spokesperson for Jones said: “Protection of privacy is an important priority for this government. Any decision to share information would be done directly with a police service.”

Ben Spurr is a Toronto-based reporter covering transportation. Reach him by email at bspurr@thestar.ca or follow him on Twitter: @BenSpurr

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RCMP arrest 3 on outstanding warrants near Leduc after car runs out of gas – Edmonton

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A woman and two men are in custody after voluntarily pulling over at a traffic stop, when their vehicle ran out of gas.

The vehicle was not pulled over by police.

Their vehicle stopped on Highway 2 near Glen Park Road in Leduc on Jan 11. at approximately 12:30 p.m., when its occupants asked for assistance.


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A woman exited the vehicle and as police continued to converse with her, they discovered she was wanted on an outstanding warrant, according to a release sent Saturday.

They then found two other men in the vehicle, one of whom was suffering from medical distress. He was transported to hospital by ambulance.

The two men were also wanted on outstanding warrants, and attempting to evade police.

WATCH: Calgary woman terrified to learn ex-boyfriend who assaulted her is now a wanted man






In a subsequent search of the vehicle, police found approximately 900 grams of what they believe to be methamphetamine, and 85 grams of what they believe is cocaine.


READ MORE:
Police seek missing New Westminster man also wanted on outstanding warrants

RCMP also say the vehicle they were driving was stolen.

The woman and two men are facing what police say is “a multitude of charges,” and are awaiting a Judicial Release Hearing.

RCMP say an update will be provided once the hearing has been completed.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Toronto police obtain nine new search warrants in Sherman murder investigation

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Toronto police detectives probing the murders of billionaires Barry and Honey Sherman have obtained nine more search warrants in the last month.

The warrants — police will not reveal what they were seeking or where the warrants were served — were authorized in the four weeks prior to a Sherman family press conference last week that criticized Toronto police for a shoddy investigation and announced a $10 million reward.

The new warrants suggest police may be ramping up their investigation into the pair’s killing.

According to court records obtained by the Star and statements made by Toronto police, detectives have obtained a total of 37 warrants and production orders since the probe began. Warrants allow police to search locations such as a house or business, production orders are for records maintained by banks and cellphone companies.

At least one warrant was served outside of Canada, but police and courts will not release details of where.

The Shermans owned property in Florida.

Barry Sherman was the founder of Apotex, Canada’s largest generic drug firm. He and his wife Honey were major donors to Jewish and other charities in Canada.

The couple was last seen alive on the evening of Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017. Their bodies were discovered the following Friday morning by Sherman family real estate agent Elise Stern, who was showing prospective buyers and their agent the home on Old Colony Rd.

The Shermans were found near a lower-level pool. They had been strangled and pulled into a seated position, each with a man’s leather belt looped around their neck and fastened to the metre-high railing that surrounds the rarely used lap pool.

Police pursued a theory of murder-suicide for six weeks, before ruling it a “targeted” double homicide on Jan. 26. That came after police reviewed the results of a second autopsy conducted by David Chiasson, Ontario’s former chief forensic pathologist, who had been hired as part of a private investigation launched by the Shermans’ four children.

Last Friday, Greenspan and his private team, most of them former homicide cops, slammed Toronto police for what they say were failures in the investigation — locks at the home not checked for tampering, fingerprints and palmprint evidence not taken from the scene, and carpets not vacuumed to obtain minute evidentiary traces.

The team also announced a $10-million reward and a tip line directing callers not to police but to the family’s experts. Greenspan has told Toronto media that calls have been coming in, though he would not say how many.

While the police will not speak about what they have done on the case, the Star has learned some information about a series of search warrants and production orders authorized by Justice Leslie Pringle, the judge who has reviewed more than 220 pages police have submitted for warrant approval.

Read more:

Family of Barry and Honey Sherman offers $10-million reward for information on murder of billionaire couple

How the investigation into the deaths of Barry and Honey Sherman turned from murder-suicide to double homicide

Opinion | Rosie DiManno: A two-tier policing system is unveiled in the Sherman case

At the beginning of the investigation, police filed warrants for such things as the Sherman couple’s health records. Sources close to the investigation have told the Star police were seeking information that one or the other was depressed. Friends interviewed by the Star say the Shermans were both in good spirits the day they died and both were making plans for family events and winter trips together.

Police also sought information on two airline loyalty programs, cellphone records and details of bank accounts at three financial institutions, although Pringle has sealed the identities of the account holders in each of these warrants.

Apotex was also served with a warrant, and in the early days of the investigation police complained they were having difficulty getting information out of the often secretive company.

Pringle has sealed much of the information in the more recent warrants and production orders, saying she is concerned that revealing these details would jeopardize the investigation.

One law enforcement official connected to the case said these most recent warrants are “too specific” to be made public — an indication that detectives may be pursuing a theory on the identity of the killer or killers.

The Star is arguing in court to unseal this information.

Immediately following the Greenspan press conference, Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders said he has had to be careful with what he said about the case because he knows “for a fact” that the Shermans’ killers are watching his televised remarks, adding he was perturbed that Greenspan released some information related to the case.

Saunders said he was particularly bothered with some of the specific comments Greenspan made at the press conference about the crime scene. At the press conference, Greenspan described to reporters how Barry Sherman was found seated with one leg crossed over the other “in a passive manner,” with his eyeglasses “undisturbed” and his jacket pulled slightly back — a position the lawyer said refuted the theory of a murder-suicide. These details have already been published in accounts by the Star and other media, say people close to Greenspan’s team.

Chaisson’s post-mortem made it clear the Shermans were “were both murdered and that the Toronto Police Service should not have drawn any conclusion which suggested self-inflicted injuries,” Greenspan said at the news conference.

In his response, Saunders said Greenspan was incorrect. “Toronto police service never reached a premature conclusion. This investigation has been done to a very high level of professionalism and high level of expertise,” he said, adding that he believes the case will be solved.

“It’s not over yet. We are continuing to work very hard to reach the conclusion we think we can reach with the help of the public.”

A timeline of known search warrants and production orders in the Sherman murder case

There have been 37 search warrants and production orders obtained by Toronto Police in the Sherman case, according to court records, Chief Saunders and police spokesperson Meaghan Gray. Below are the date and location of the majority of them, according to court records obtained by the Star through a legal challenge. Justice Pringle has sealed almost all of the documents, with the exception of a few general search locations — she has, for example, allowed the identity of the bank to be known, but not the account holder.

Dec. 15, 2017: The Shermans’ bodies are discovered in their home

Dec. 20: Two production orders for Rogers Communications cellphone records and one warrant for a Toronto police storage locker on Jane St., where evidence from the crime scene was briefly kept

Dec. 20: A search warrant, address sealed

Jan. 10, 2018: Four search warrants, one for a police storage locker, the other locations sealed

Jan. 1: Production order served on Ontario Ministry of Health for Barry and Honey Sherman’s “billing records and records of visits to hospital and clinics” between December 2010 and Dec. 16, 2017 — the day after they were known to be dead

Jan. 15: Production order to retrieve materials in locker #51 at 33 Division, likely containing evidence officers seized from the Sherman house

Jan. 15: Production order served on Apotex, no details released on what police were seeking

Feb. 15: Production order served on LoyaltyOne Co., which operates the AirMiles loyalty rewards program, no details released on the account holder

Feb. 15: Production order served on Aimia, owner of the Aeroplan loyalty rewards program, no details released on the account holder

Feb. 15: Production order served on Office of the Chief Coroner to retrieve some medical records of the Shermans earlier obtained by the coroner under a Coroner’s Warrant

Feb. 15: Three Production orders served on BMO Financial Group, CIBC and TD Bank, no details released on the account numbers or holders

April 16: Four judicial authorizations granted, police will not say if warrants or production orders

June 27: Two judicial authorizations granted, police will not say if warrants or production orders

Sept. 23: One judicial authorization, police will not say if warrants or production orders

Between Sept. 23 and Oct. 26: Nine judicial authorizations, either warrants or production orders

Kevin Donovan can be reached at kdonovan@thestar.ca or 416-312-3503. Follow him on Twitter at @_kevindonovan

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Sherman murder probe obtains seven more search warrants

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Toronto homicide detectives have obtained seven more search warrants as part of their investigation into the targeted double murders of billionaire couple Barry and Honey Sherman, court documents show.

“The investigation is still active and ongoing,” Detective Dennis Yim told a Toronto court last week during a hearing in which the Star was seeking information on the case. “Investigators are methodically reviewing material and pursuing different investigative avenues.”

The seven new warrants bring to 28 the total number filed by police since last December. Some targets of previous warrants — cellular telephone and banking records — were made public, but these new warrants target locations that are too specific to release without compromising the investigation, a crown attorney told the court.

The Star had argued at the hearing that a series of missteps by police — including the pursuit of the murder-suicide theory for six weeks and a similar delay in reviewing CCTV footage — were deserving of public oversight and at least a redacted version of all warrant documents and the police investigation notes that support them should be released.

The strangled bodies of Apotex founder Barry Sherman and his wife Honey were discovered in their homes on Friday, December 15. It is likely they were killed the previous Wednesday evening.

Pringle acknowledged the Star’s goal in seeking the records was “appropriate and important.”

“They want to shed light on some areas where they feel mistakes may have been made, and they want to understand why this investigation is taking so long,” Pringle said. “In this regard, I agree there is a public interest in transparency of the legal process.” She told the Star it could renew its application if charges are laid or if circumstances related to the investigation change.

During the Star’s court challenge, the Star did learn some information related to the probe of the couple, who were well known in Toronto and internationally as major donors to Jewish and other charities.

The new judicial authorizations to search were approved by Pringle between April and last week. Pringle is the go-to judge for all Sherman warrants, court heard. Four new authorizations were obtained April 16, two on June 27, and one was granted Sunday, September 23.

There had been a flurry of authorizations in the first two months of the probe but then a lag until April. Police will not say how many of the authorizations are search warrants (which are for a specific location such as a house) and how many of them are “production orders,” a warrant that is typically served on banks and telecommunication companies that maintain data police believe would be helpful to a probe.

Detective Yim, who was seconded to the homicide squad from one of Toronto’s police divisions said the Sherman case has been his full-time assignment since December 21, 2017. His role is to prepare search warrant applications and review information yielded by the warrants.

He told court last week that 3,700 pages of documents and 1,390 electronic files have been obtained, but would not say what they contain.

Yim said “more than 50 officers have been involved in this investigation to date.” Asked by the Star during cross-examination to name all of the officers, Yim was unable to. The Star provided the names of the lead officer, Detective Sgt. Susan Gomes and the lead investigator Detective Brandon Price, plus the name of an additional officer. Yim agreed those officers were working on the case, but he said they were not working full-time on the Sherman probe. Crown attorney Peter Scrutton told court there was “at least one” officer working full-time on the case (Yim).

The Star’s investigation began in early January when police sources had told numerous Toronto media outlets, including the Star, that police believed it was a murder-suicide. A January 19, 2018 story prompted detectives to interview the pathologist the Sherman family hired to conduct a second set of autopsies, and shortly after police announced it was a double murder.

During the court hearing, the Star raised several issues it has turned up in its own probe and provided them to the court as examples of information the sealed court documents would shed light on. Among them:

  • Why did police not interview the family’s pathologist, Dr. David Chiasson, immediately after he did the second set of autopsies on December 20? Chiasson was not interviewed until January 21.
  • Why did police wait until a month after the Shermans died to view four days of CCTV footage seized from the Apotex head offices in December? The Star has discovered that when police copied the CCTV footage the weekend after the bodies were discovered they did not realize they could not view it due to a software security feature. Police eventually contacted Apotex and asked for a fresh copy of the file, according to a source with knowledge of the incident.
  • Why have police only recently asked for DNA samples from a person who was in the Sherman house on Wednesday, Dec. 13, the last time the couple was seen alive? The Star’s investigation has revealed that police were doing this to exclude the person (a woman who was a friend and regular visitor) from DNA found at the site. The Star wanted to ask the detective why this type of analysis was not done months earlier.

Detective Yim said he was unable to answer any questions regarding specifics of the investigation or what was contained in the sealed documents. Justice Pringle ruled that the Star could not pursue this line of questioning because it would infringe on the sealing order she had put in place. In her ruling she said Yim’s answers on the witness stand were “vague,” but she said this was out of necessity.

Making public the inner workings of the Sherman investigation “poses a serious risk of compromising the police investigation,” Pringle said.

As the judge who has signed off on all search warrants and production orders she said she is satisfied the probe is “active and ongoing … I can say that the police investigation appears to be extensive, meticulous and careful. Contrary to the Applicant’s concern that it has stalled, the investigation appears to be progressing at this time.”

The Star also argued that there were parts of the 220 pages at issue that could be released to the public because they would not impact the ongoing police investigation. Citing case law, the Star pointed out that if there is an earlier theory in a case (for example, murder-suicide) that portion of the police warrant information can be released without harming the rest of the probe.

During cross-examination, Detective Yim said that the murder-suicide theory was one of three the police pursued in early days and is represented in the search warrant documents.

Justice Pringle ruled that she could not allow access even to “certain theories that may now have been discarded by police.” She said the warrant documents are too intertwined and “not easily severed into discrete parts or issues. Read out of context and in isolation, bits and pieces of information have real potential to be misleading.”

Toronto Police Detective Sgt. Susan Gomes did not respond to a series of questions provided to her a week ago.

Kevin Donovan is the Star’s chief investigative reporter based in Toronto. Reach him by email at kdonovan@thestar.ca or (416) 312-3503. Follow him on Twitter: @_kevindonovan

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