TORONTO, Sept. 6 (UPI) -- Police west of Toronto said they cracked a major international gypsy immigration, theft and welfare fraud ring by arresting 34 people.
Durham Regional Police Detective Sgt. Cathy Bawden said as many as 400 people had been identified in the scheme in which the ring recruited people from Romania to come to the Toronto area as refugees and then work in a wide-ranging series of thefts, the Toronto Sun reported.
She said children and women wearing long skirts with inner pockets would create distractions as items were stolen from jewelry stores, other retail outlets and individuals.
The raids netted $85,000 in cash and stolen goods, Bawden said.
The investigation that began last fall included help from various Canadian federal agencies, three other police forces, the FBI, Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Interpol, the Sun said.
They are still tracking about $1 million worth of electronic funds transfers to other countries, the report said.
Additionally, Toronto welfare officials estimate more than $2 million in benefits was paid to the Romanian immigrants since January.
Police filled 263 charges against those arrested and said the investigation is far from over.
Two key suspects are believed to have fled to Germany, investigators said.