Edmonton Police Service has confirmed it is investigating at least 18 incidents of extortion in the area since October, and investigators believe there may be additional cases.
As CTV News Edmonton previously reported, members of the South Asian business community have allegedly received messages through WhatsApp or social media demanding payment of a large sum.
If the victim doesn’t pay, fires are set at newly built homes or show homes.
EPS says there have also been follow-up demands for larger sums of money, which has escalated to violence, including drive-by shootings.
No injuries have been reported.
Investigators say the fires have been started by a group of young adults who have been seen carrying gas cans.
Six young men have been arrested after shootings and arsons that police say have been connected to the extortion cases.
Parminder Singh, 20, was arrested on 12 firearms-related charges stemming from an incident on Oct. 19 where shots were fired at a home in the Laurel area.
Singh is currently in custody.
Hassan Dembil, 18, Manav Heer, 18, Ravinder Sandu, 19, and a youth were all charged with arson-related offences in relation to a house fire in the Cy Becker area on Dec. 19.
They have since been released.
Arjun Sahnan, 19, was arrested on five firearms-related charges during a Dec. 30 traffic stop.
He has since been released.
On Wednesday, police released a photo of a male who is a person of interest in a deliberately set fire on Dec. 29 at Woodhaven Point.
EPS has set up a dedicated project team to work on the case, and anyone with information about the person of interest or who has received an extortion threat is asked to call police at 780423-4567 and reference file #23-802638.
Tips can also be submitted to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
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