Law & Order Toronto recap: Crypto kings and con artists

Law & Order Toronto recap: Crypto kings and con artists

A very Toronto breakdown of episode one, “The Keys to the Castle”

Graff, Bateman and the cast of Law and Order Toronto: Criminal Intent standing in a clump wearing suits

In Toronto’s war on crime, the worst offenders are pursued by the detectives of a specialized criminal investigations unit. Now, some of those investigations are getting the television treatment with Law & Order Toronto: Criminal Intent, a new, super-local and somewhat verbosely titled expansion of the famous franchise, now airing on CityTV.

Though each story is fictional and does not depict any actual person or event, many of the cases and places on screen will feel familiar to Canadian true-crime fans. But will they pass muster with the people who know the city best? Each week, we’ll weigh the evidence, consult the experts and issue a verdict on what the show got right and wrong about Toronto, the Canadian legal system and the IRL headlines behind each episode.

“A lot of time and effort went into making it procedurally accurate and specific to Toronto,” says Matt Crone, a retired 416 homicide cop and writers’ room consultant for L&OT:CI (still a mouthful). Crone, who was the lead investigator on Sharmini Anandavel’s homicide case in the late ’90s, joins us for our first recap. 

Related: Meet the showrunner behind the new Law & Order Toronto

Our inaugural murder victim is Daniel Siddiqui, a tech bro with a penchant for private yachts and rumpled khakis (+2 for accuracy). Siddiqui is the co-founder of Big-A-Plex, a crypto investment fund that turns out to be a Ponzi scheme. When his body washes up on shore, hundreds of millions in investor funds are left locked in an encrypted account to which only Siddiqui had the code. This seemingly far-fetched scenario mirrors the IRL story of Gerald Cotten, the Canadian crypto conman who duped investors out of millions before dying mysteriously on his honeymoon in India and taking his company’s access codes with him. So, yes, it could happen (+4). 

Would it happen in 2024, though? Crypto was all the rage a few years ago, but these days wouldn’t con artists be more inclined to dress up their Ponzi schemes as AI investment opportunities or Taylor Swift ticket sweepstakes? Crone says no. “Crypto is still very attractive in terms of fraud, because it is so elusive from a criminality standpoint. It’s possible to lose someone’s investment without breaking the law. Demonstrating intent can be tricky”(+2).

At the top of the episode, Big-A-Plex throws its VIP client event at the Royal Canadian Yacht Club. It’s a beautiful venue with a picture-perfect view of the CN Tower, but a little too buttoned-up for the crypto crowd. What, Cabana Pool Bar wasn’t available? (-2).

Daniel stands with his wife at the RCYC. in the background, the Toronto skyline

At the party, we meet Johnny, a pro athlete and Big-A-Plex investor who is so pissed by the lack of return on his investment that he dumps his glass of (presumably pricey) bubbly on the grass. Siddiqui smooths things over by handing him $50,000 in cash in a brown paper bag. It feels a little amateur-hour, but it turns out that Cotten was known for doing exactly the same thing (+2). 

We first meet our two series leads, detective inspectors Henry Graff and Frankie Bateman (played by Aden Young and Kathleen Munroe), when they arrive to inspect Siddiqui’s private yacht (+1). It’s unclear whether we’re looking at a murder scene at this point. As with the Cotten case, the authorities speculate that our guy could be in Mexico getting facial reconstruction surgery (+1).

Another cop on the scene refers to Graff and Bateman as “the better-suit squad”—accurate cop slang, according to Crone. He says homicide cops dress more formally than other police out of respect for the dead and in case they have to attend a funeral. “When I started, in the early ’80s, we weren’t even allowed to wear sports jackets,” he says (+3). 

Graff, one of the series main detectives, is pictured in a suit in front of a window

Paying homage to Law & Order GOAT Vincent D’Onofrio, Graff is an asocial oddball with an encyclopedic brain. But that accent of his is 100 per cent original—not to mention difficult to place and a little hard to buy for a cop living in Toronto. The actor, Young, was born here but spent most of his life in Australia, which probably accounts for the vaguely coastal lilt. Crone doesn’t have a problem with it (“Toronto homicide cops have all kinds of different backstories,” he says). So we’ll reserve judgment while awaiting a backstory about Graff’s summers spent lobster-fishing off the coast of Nova Scotia (0).

How often do people disappear off of yachts into Lake Ontario like our doomed crypto bro? “More often than you might think,” says Crone. So it does make sense that a homicide cop like Graff would be an expert on barometric pressure and water currents (+2). And, yes, the “Coriolis effect” he describes is a real thing (+1).

That Siddiqui’s body turns up at all is a major stroke of luck for our intrepid investigators (-1). “Lake Ontario is so cold that sometimes a body will disappear,” says Crone. The theory is that, if it sinks deep enough, it doesn’t decompose as quickly and the gasses that might make it float don’t develop.

Mirroring what happened with Cotten’s widow (+2), Siddiqui’s partner, Sophie, is the subject of much suspicion. For Graff and Bateman, she becomes an early person of interest (they think she either poisoned her husband or is planning to meet him and his new face in Mexico). Because, in the words of inspector Vivienne Holness (played by the incomparable Karen Robinson), “The woman’s a knockout. There’s no way she went after this nerd without a plan” (+3).

Karen Robinson in Law and Order Toronto

When Graff and Bateman arrive at the Big-A-Plex offices (not located on Bay Street [-1]), they discover that the sophisticated crypto operation is actually just a few dudes with laptops—a detail ripped directly from the Cotten case (+2). On that note, Big-A-Plex is an unspeakably lame business name that feels like it was invented by a committee of eight-year-olds. In other words…they nailed it (+3).

Siddiqui’s cause of death may have been drowning, but a post-mortem reveals that his body contained “enough pentobarbital to kill a horse.” It’s an apt reference, since pentobarbital is generally used to euthanize animals, but is it a plausible murder weapon? “This is definitely a TV thing. They want to have someone slip a dose into your champagne glass and then suddenly you’re dead,” says Crone. While pentobarbital is particularly lethal, Crone says that most real-life poisonings are more drawn out (-4). 

After Siddiqui’s murder, his business partner Nick Millwood must convince one of Big-A-Plex’s biggest clients that she will get her money back soon. Their meeting spot: Goldstone Noodle Restaurant in Chinatown. Feels low-rent for a couple of high rollers (-2).

Two chacters from Law and Order Toronto at the Golden Noodle restaurant in Toronto

Graff and Bateman also visit Little India to question Siddiqui’s assistant, Ravi Singh, who is hanging out at his mother’s sari shop (+1). A great chance to highlight the culture of an iconic Toronto location, but would anyone opt to meet the cops at their mom’s work (-2)? 

As the investigation continues, we learn that Big-A-Plex co-founder Nick Millwood is actually Mikolaj Milanosky, a conman with ties to organized crime. It’s a very 2024 plot twist, per Crone, who says that, with less and less money in drugs, criminal organizations are seeking different revenue sources. Often, fraud is the answer. “Why risk going into a bank with a gun when you can sit at your keyboard? And if you do get caught, the penalties for fraud are a lot less severe” (+4). 

It’s Bateman who figures out that Nick (the business partner) and Sophie (the wife) have history. She connects them through “the notorious Martina Lucky,” a fictional party planner who sounds a lot like Toronto’s NBA party grande dame Mona Halem (+1). 

The investigation into Siddiqui’s death also takes Graff and Bateman to Filmore’s, the hotel at George and Dundas that houses what used to be one of the city’s most notorious strip clubs (until it was purchased by a condo developer in 2020) (+3). “That was great!” says Crone, who didn’t advise on the location but sees it as a “welcome wink to the city’s shady past.” Accuracy points for the sign advertising “Hourly Room Rates!” (+2). Further points for Tyler, the front-desk clerk (and Fashion Santa lookalike) who is rocking a vintage Gowan T-shirt (+3) and almost certainly got his beaded necklace at Courage My Love (+1). 

Did Graff just rhyme “hello” with “didgeridoo” (-2)?

Graff and Bateman catch up with deputy crown attorney Theo Forrester (K. C. Collins) on his walk to court. It’s an excellent shot of the iconic Toronto sign and a very typical interaction, says Crone. “You’ve got the Superior Court of Justice, the Ontario Court of Justice and Old City Hall all within a few blocks” (+2). The scene gets further accuracy points for the way Graff and Bateman consult Forrester to see if they have a case. “In Ontario, the standard for prosecuting a case is higher than the standard for making an arrest, so cops will often check in,” says Crone. “The last thing you want, as a cop, is to arrest someone the Crown then decides not to prosecute” (+1).

Bateman and Graff with the crown attorney near City Hall

A lawyer standing on the sidewalk outside Old City Hall is dressed in full courtroom attire. We have it on good authority (a lawyer friend) that wearing robes outside a court setting is not quite illegal but definitely frowned upon (-1).

At the episode’s climax, Graff and Bateman corner Nick Millwood and lead him to believe that they think Siddiqui is still alive. Millwood—who we now know to be Milanosky—argues that Siddiqui couldn’t be alive because he pushed him out of the boat. Busted! “It does happen,” says Crone of this fabulously Legally Blonde–esque turn of events (+2). More often, though, incrimination comes via an attempted cover-up. “Once you catch a suspect in a lie, that’s as good as a confession,” Crone says (-3).

Bateman and Graff looking at their case notes


Accuracy score: +30
Judge’s notes: A respectable entry into Toronto’s war on boring television
Best Toronto cameo: The Dundas streetcar, which sails by in the background when Graff and Bateman exit Filmore’s
Worst Toronto cameo: The inaccessible real estate market, which appears when Bateman pegs the victim’s mansion as costing “at least $8 million”
Most meme-worthy line: “The Coriolis effect—obviously”