48 stolen vehicles seized, 150 charges laid during 2 Toronto police investigations

Officers say 48 vehicles with a combined value of just under $4 million were recently seized as part of an undercover Toronto police investigation focused on the trafficking, shipping, and re-vinning of stolen vehicles.

Speaking at a news conference in Toronto on Wednesday, police provided details on two separate but related undercover investigations, dubbed Project Spectre and Project Paranoid.

Police said Project Spectre, an investigation into a network of individuals involved in narcotics and firearms trafficking, was launched in April 2023. During that investigation, police said, an undercover operator managed to purchase six illegal firearms and a quantity of illicit drugs.

“Information obtained during Project Spectre led to a new investigation focused on the trafficking, shipping, and re-vinning of stolen vehicles,” Staff Supt. Pauline Gray told reporters.

According to Gray, seven suspects face a combined 150 charges in connection with the two investigations.

Police said 20 of the vehicles that were seized during Project Paranoid were recovered as part of a joint effort with the Halton Regional Police Service. Those vehicles, police said, have a combined value of about $1 million and were found at a shipper location in Burlington.

Twenty other vehicles were intercepted by police in Toronto and Montreal with the help of the CBSA and five were purchased by an undercover operator, police said. Three more were located during the execution of search warrants, Supt. Steve Watts said Wednesday.

“During the investigation, there were several businesses in the GTA which were identified as locations where stolen motor-vehicles were stored and sold prior to being shipped overseas and/or re-vinned and re-registered to be sold domestically,” he added.

 

Ontarians ‘especially vulnerable’ to auto theft

The probe was conducted in collaboration with investigators from Équité, a national organization that aims to reduce and prevent insurance fraud and crime.

“In Canada, a vehicle is stolen every five minutes. The vehicles that the organized crime groups are targeting in Ontario are newer and have greater value than ever before,” Bryan Gast, the vice-president of investigative services at Équité, told reporters on Wednesday.

“Since 2020, the claim costs have increased by 319 per cent. And for the first time, Ontario has experienced over $1 billion in auto theft claims costs in a single year in 2023.”

Gast said last year’s auto theft claims costs were up $300 million from 2022.

“Profit margins are high and historically, the risk of consequences for criminals are low. As a result, stolen vehicles are frequently trafficked in order finance and carry out other criminal activity,” he said.

“Ontario’s population, high-volume of targeted vehicles and its proximity to the port of Montreal make it especially vulnerable.”

Project Paranoid

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