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Edmonton homebuilders targeted by extortion arming themselves, bolstering security measures


People speaking to CTV News Edmonton on condition of anonymity about a spate of extortions related to arsons and shootings since October say they fear speaking out, with some now taking measures to try to protect themselves, their families and their property.

Edmonton police say 10 local homebuilders have been targeted in the extortion attempts.

Police held a town hall about the extortion wave on Thursday night for Edmonton's South Asian community, attended by 250 people. They're asking more people to step forward with any information about the threats.

Since mid-October, 34 events — a combination of arsons, extortion attempts, shootings, threats, and reports of suspicious vehicles or people — have been reported to police. Ten homebuilders of South Asian origin have been targeted, although other people are believed to have been victimized as mistaken targets.

During an update on the case Thursday, investigators revealed they have identified "12 targets and many more associates" connected to the criminal network that is orchestrating the crimes.

One of the 12 has fled to India but has "historical ties to Edmonton," police said.

Police also believe the scheme is being orchestrated out of India. However, the people behind the fires and shootings have all been young men (and one boy) from Edmonton's South Asian community.

CTV News Edmonton has heard some people targeted by extortion have taken drastic defensive steps such as acquiring firearms licences, spending up to $3,000 a day on security for their homes and properties, and investing tens of thousands of dollars in upgraded security systems.

Another common story CTV News Edmonton has heard is who is extorting them and how.

The anonymous sources say the man extorting them is someone they know, or know of, who once lived in Edmonton.

They tell CTV News Edmonton he calls from overseas through WhatsApp, introducing himself and demanding money.

They say violence has followed soon after the calls when the man they say is extorting them is told 'no,' leading to more extortion attempts and threats.

CTV News is working to confirm the name of the man alleged to be behind the extortions.

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Alexandra Antoneshyn Top Stories

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