Project Gaslight: Surveillance footage shows suspects setting fires to Edmonton homes

This video captures the moment one of the fires was started, in a string of arsons targeting Edmonton's South Asian community. Police seek help identifying some of these people in a string of extortions that have caused $10 million in damages.

Edmonton police are turning to the public for help in identifying suspects connected to an arson and extortion scheme targeting South Asian businesses in the city.

Detectives with “Project Gaslight” released seven surveillance videos Wednesday – either from the scenes of arsons or showing suspects purchasing gas cans and fuel.

Authorities and experts say organized crime groups have been going after vacant, newly built and under-construction homes as part of international extortion activities. The crime wave has seen dozens of homes in the Edmonton area burn down.

The “Project Gaslight” extortion investigation — comprised of 10 investigators and two analysts — is a joint effort between EPS, Surrey RCMP and Peel Regional Police. The police forces are probing 34 cases across B.C., Alberta and Ontario.

Edmonton police made six arrests in January — one of them a youth — tied to extortion threats, shootings and arsons. They say an estimated $10 million in property damage has been reported, and a firefighter was injured in one of the arsons.

“After reviewing the video and identifying as many of the suspects as we could, we’re now releasing it to the public in the hopes they can identify the remaining suspects and provide us with information to fill in the gaps about their activities on the dates in question,” said Det. Devin Kokoski in a news release.

All seven videos can be viewed here.

November 6, 2023 – 16 Avenue and 12 Street

Three suspects get out of a vehicle with a gas can. They later run back to the same vehicle.

November 24, 2023 – Meadowview Way (Leduc)

Three suspects approach a home with a gas can.

December 14, 2023 – 42 Avenue and 38A Street (Beaumont)

Two suspects break into a home and start a fire. Police are looking to identify the person carrying the red gas can, wearing white shoes and a grey hoodie.

December 31, 2023 – 16 Avenue and 12 Street

A suspect in an SUV arrives at, then drives away from, a building that goes up in smoke. Prior to the fire, a white Mercedes circles the area.

January 28

Two men enter a Walmart at 1203 Parsons Road and purchase a gas can. Police are looking to identify the suspect in the camouflage jacket.

That same day, a man carrying a gas can enters and exits a 7-Eleven at 280 Saddleback Road, then fills the can at the pumps. This suspect has been identified, but police are looking for any information about his activities on that day.

Anyone who has any relevant information can email or call 780-391-4279.

Investigators say there hasn’t been an arson since January, attributing the lull in fires to their investigation and people coming forward.

“Some of the activity that police have taken, and some of the engagement from the community,” Staff Sgt. Dave Paton said.

Police believe the situation is being led by someone outside of Canada.

“These types of things are quite common in India, and I think it’s a tactic that they’re exploiting,” Paton said. “And the fact that they all kind of happened at the relatively same time was definitely interesting and it was a concern to us. But as it started to unfold, the suggestion that it’s linked to something bigger really seemed to fade away.”

Investigators also added the shooting of a prominent Edmonton homebuilder earlier this month was not related the extortions.

–With files from Darcy Ropchan

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