Seven people have been arrested and over $1 million in stolen automobiles recovered after a joint forces investigation into an auto theft ring operating in Durham Region, York Region and Toronto.
In October 2013, members from the DRPS West Division Property Crimes Unit noticed an increase in the amount of automobile thefts in the region and began investigating. Detectives soon found a connection between two stolen vehicles from Durham Region and a person of interest in a York Regional Police auto fraud and theft investigation.
Teams from both police services began working together and over the following months, discovered a criminal organization. In July 2014, Durham Regional Police and York Regional Police formalized a Joint Force Operation, called Project Lakeland, to dismantle this organized crime ring operating in the Greater Toronto Area.
This crime group included an informal collection of thieves who stole the cars, a licensed car dealer who fraudulently obtained Ministry of Transportation documents, a person responsible for changing the Vehicle Information Number (VIN) on the vehicles to mask their identity and an exporter who shipped the stolen vehicles from Canada to be sold in Africa. The stolen vehicles would be sealed in steel sea containers in the GTA and shipped to Africa via the Ports of Halifax and Montreal.
On December 8th, 2014, seven search warrants were executed - five in Toronto and two in York Region. Seven people were arrested and charged with a total of 46 offences. There are several suspects outstanding who played secondary roles in support of the theft ring. These individuals will be arrested and charged over the coming weeks.
As part of this investigation, search warrants were executed at residences and businesses in Toronto and York Region. Police recovered: cocaine (1 gram); heroin (15 grams); $11,000 in cash; fraudulent personal identification documents; fraudulently obtained documents, fraudulent vehicle identification number plates, a Land Rover, a motorcycle, several computers and cellular phones.
In total, 29 stolen motor vehicles and one motorcycle have been recovered, with a value of approximately $1,119,000. The vehicle models included primarily Toyotas, but also included Land Rovers and Hondas.
The investigation continues and more charges are anticipated. Investigators will be recovering a few additional vehicles in the coming weeks.
The DRPS and YRP would like to thank several partners who were instrumental in the success of this project: the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario; the RCMPs Ontario Division; the Toronto Police Service; the Canada Border Service Agency; Service Ontario, the Insurance Bureau of Canada, the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council and LoJack Canada (a vehicle theft recovery company) for their assistance with the investigation.
Recovered Cars, Sea Container (JPG file, 411.3K bytes)
Media Outlets Cover the Story (JPG file, 215.5K bytes)
Staff Sergeant Morash Answers Questions (JPG file, 325.8K bytes)
Sea Containers Used to Ship Stolen Vehicles (JPG file, 234.9K bytes)
Vehicles in Sea Containers (JPG file, 97.9K bytes)
Some of the Vehicles Recovered (JPG file, 101.6K bytes)