08/09/2012 06:25 EDT | Updated 10/09/2012 05:12 EDT

Dozens Charged After Police Probe York Region Collisions

York Regional Police say that dozens of people are facing charges in connection with a series of staged collisions that cost insurance companies millions of dollars in fraudulent claims.

On Thursday, police announced the details of Project Sideswipe, which launched in March after insurance investigators brought forward evidence about nine collisions they suspected had been staged.

Insp. Keith Merith said the Insurance Bureau of Canada identified nine separate staged collisions that had occurred in 2010.

"These collisions all occurred in the Vaughan area within a three-kilometre radius of each other," Merith said Thursday.

Project Sideswipe put four fraud investigators and one traffic investigator on the case, which has led police to press charges against more than 60 individuals.

Merith said those charges include counts of fraud, obstructing police and conspiracy to commit an indictable offence.

"We believe that this project has made a significant impact on the problem of staged collisions within York Region," said Merith.

As of Thursday afternoon, police were still trying to locate about 20 outstanding suspects.

Rick Dubin of the Insurance Bureau of Canada said the potential loss to insurers from the collisions is still being calculated, but it is "estimated to be somewhat in the neighbourhood of $5 million."

Earlier this year, Toronto police laid charges against more than 30 people in a similar investigation dubbed Project Whiplash, which involved staged collisions that had occurred across the Greater Toronto Area.

Dubin told reporters Thursday that the Greater Toronto Area is the "staged-collision capital of Canada without any doubt whatsoever."