peel police car stolen

Toronto area police bust recovers 200 stolen vehicles worth $11 million

A six-month-long investigation involving multiple police forces and agencies resulted in the recovery of 200 stolen vehicles.

Toronto recently noted a spike in car thefts so much so that Toronto City Council asked the province to team up with local police to form a task force. The city saw a 12 per cent increase in stolen vehicles in 2021.

The investigation, which just wrapped up and was called "Project High," resulted in the recovery of over 200 stolen vehicles worth more than $11 million and the arrests of 24 people from Toronto, Montreal, Brampton, Mississauga, Durham Region and Richmond Hill.

The suspects were thought to be involved in a prolific auto theft ring, Peel Regional Police said in a press release on Jan. 27.

A documented increase in motor vehicles being stolen from residents within the Region of Peel and Greater Toronto Area sparked the investigation.

Suspects were thought to force open the driver's door and get access to the vehicle's On Board Diagnostic Port (OBD). Once this was achieved, they utilized key programming devices to program a new aftermarket key fob, police said.

These were not the result of relay thefts, when a car thief uses specialized electronic equipment to sniff out and amplify the communication signals used by your car and its fob, police said.

The thefts were captured on home security from victims and neighbouring residences.

Most of the vehicles targeted were identified as being the most commonly stolen vehicles by Equite Association — Toyota Highlander, Honda CRV, Ford F150, Range Rover, and Lexus SUV models.

Car owners in residential neighbourhoods were thought to be targeted while they slept and the vehicles were then loaded into shipping containers to export them to the United States and multiple West African and Middle Eastern Countries.

"These arrests and seizures are an impressive demonstration of the value of collaboration between the Peel Regional Police, our policing partners, and our community," said Nick Milinovich, Deputy Chief of Investigative and Emergency Services.

"It has resulted in successfully dismantling one of the most prolific organized crime rings in the Greater Toronto Area. The results are unparalleled."

"These crimes have impacted many hard-working citizens in Peel and neighbouring regions affecting our community's well-being," he continued. "While these enforcement efforts do have an impact, it is critical that they are coupled with crime prevention efforts from our communities. Together, we are making a difference."

The vehicles were fraudulently registered in Ontario and sold to unsuspecting automotive dealerships, online dealer platforms and unassuming buyers.

Police identified vehicles that had been exported previously and registered with cloned Vehicle Identification Numbers and further vehicles were recovered throughout the province and North America.

The investigative team was collaboration with investigators from Peel Regional Police, Halton Regional Police, York Regional Police and the Ontario Provincial Police with funding from the Ontario Government, Criminal Intelligence Service Ontario, and included members from Canada Border Services Agency, Mississauga, Port of Montreal – SPVM Police, Equite Association (previously, Insurance Bureau of Canada), Port of Halifax and Halifax Police Service.

On Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022, members of the investigative team executed nine residential search warrants across Peel, Halton and York Regions resulting in the following:

  • Charged persons: 24
  • Vehicles Recovered: 217
  • Value of Motor Vehicles: $11.1 Million
  • Charges Laid: 321
  • Firearms Seized: One loaded Glock .45 calibre hand gun with prohibited extended magazine and laser sight
  • In excess of $100,000 in Canadian currency seized as proceeds of crime
  • A quantity of drugs seized
  • Automobile forgery documents and instruments seized
  • Fraudulent Government documents seized
Lead photo by

Peel Regional Police


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