An OPP officer with an “exemplary” service record received a suspended sentence Thursday after admitting he broke the law by steering at least $500,000 worth of business to two Toronto tow truck companies owned by a man featured on a reality TV show.
Superior Court Justice Gillian Roberts’s decision shines a light on the cut-throat practices within the GTA’s violence-plagued towing industry, and on the favouritism shown by some officers who, as public servants, are prohibited from giving preferential treatment to any person or entity.
Const. Bindo Showan, 59, pleaded guilty on June 7 to one count of breach of trust. The Crown did not proceed on a charge that he corruptly accepted a benefit.
The defence argued the absence of personal gain made the offence less serious. The judge disagreed. While the Crown had not proven Showan personally benefited, “it does not mean that the defence has proved there was no personal gain. There is simply no evidence before me one way or the other.”
Three other OPP police officers are still facing related charges, as is Sutheshkumar Sithambarpillay, the owner of the towing companies that received $500,000 in towing revenue with Showan’s help.
Sithambarpillay has been regularly featured on the Discovery Canada reality TV show “Heavy Rescue: 401,” where he has appeared in 21 episodes under the name Steve Pillay. The show profiles the work of several heavy towing companies in the Toronto area.
Contacted by the Star Thursday, Sithambarpillay’s lawyer, Kally Ho, said she had no comment as his matter is still pending. He is due in court next month.
The allegations against Sithambarpillay have not been proven in court.
The charges stemmed from a 2020 Toronto police investigation into alleged corruption among highway cops, focusing on tows in the GTA connected to stunt driving offences under Section 172 of the Highway Traffic Act.
Drivers caught going 50 km/h over the posted speed limit must have their vehicle impounded for seven days. “The fee for such impounds can often yield upwards of $2,000 per vehicle to the tow company,” according to the agreed facts read in court on June 7.
OPP policy dictates that drivers choose which towing company to contact. Though that can be overridden by an officer, they are supposed to contact “the first available” truck.
An analysis of Showan’s four-year history of stunt driving enforcement with the the OPP’s 407 detachment between 2016 and 2020 showed a majority of his tows were conducted by either Steve’s Towing or CCC Towing, two of the larger towing companies in the GTA, the prosecutor said.
Both companies are owned by Sithambarpillay.
At Showan’s guilty plea, the prosecution presented an agreed statement of facts that referred to surveillance and wiretaps showing Showan and Sithambarpillay were in regular communication, both on the phone and in person.
There were several examples. On April 5, 2020, Maple Towing was first on the scene to tow a vehicle to Quebec — until Showan and a Steve’s Towing flatbed truck showed up and took it away.
“You got a good one — Montreal is a good one,” Showan said to Sithambarpillay afterwards in an intercepted call, according to the agreed statement of facts. Later that day, on another call between the two men, Sithambarpillay said, “let’s see what we can do tomorrow.” Showan responded, “for sure.”
Wiretaps also captured Showan offering to get takeout food for Sithambarpillay, and an OPP surveillance team then saw the two men meet roadside, according to the agreed statement of facts. About an hour later, Showan stopped a blue Porsche. “About eight minutes later, a tow truck from Steve’s Towing attended the scene and removed the Porsche,” the agreed statement said.
Court heard that some tow truck drivers follow OPP officers from the detachment to enforcement locations and position their trucks at known “fishing holes” where they knew police speed traps would be set up, despite officers being told not to allow this.
“The fact that this was a highly competitive industry rife with problems should have resulted in the police behaving with scrupulous care,” the judge wrote in her reasons for sentence released Thursday. “Rather than being part of the solution, however, Mr. Showan became part of the problem. To make matters worse, he did so in the face of specific and repeated warnings not to show favouritism to any tow truck companies.”
Showan had been a police officer since 2001. He joined the OPP’s 407 detachment in 2016, where 34 officers are assigned.
While his lawyer, Philip Wright, asked for a conditional discharge, the judge accepted Crown attorney Jason Nicol’s argument that Showan should receive a suspended sentence, which he will serve out of custody so long as he fulfils his sentencing conditions, including not to contact Sithambarpillay.
The judge noted that Showan has suffered greatly since the charges were laid. He is “embarrassed and ashamed” and has apologized profusely to colleagues, family, friends, the court and all the people who have trusted him.
He remains suspended with pay, and faces disciplinary proceedings and could lose his job.
Judge Roberts added that while his distinguished policing career, attested to in reviews and letters, is “impressive,” his position as a police officer, and the powers that come with it, mean that he must be held to a higher standard of accountability.
“If our best officers can be corrupted, that strikes me as a reason to emphasize the importance of general deterrence and denunciation.”
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