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Toronto Police Recover Over 100 Stolen Vehicles in Auto Theft Investigation Involving Service Ontario Employee

Toronto, June 21: Toronto police have arrested four suspects and recovered more than 100 stolen vehicles in connection with a months-long auto theft investigation involving a former ServiceOntario employee. The investigation, dubbed Project Poacher, began in January 2024.

During a news conference on Friday morning, investigators announced that 28 charges have been laid as part of the probe. Detective Dan Kraehling explained that the suspects were allegedly working with a former ServiceOntario employee who was paid to provide clean vehicle documents and plates to disguise stolen vehicles.

“It is alleged that the suspects provided the former employee with vehicle identification numbers (VINs) from vehicles that had previously been sold and exported out of the country. In exchange for money, the former employee created new, legitimate-looking vehicle registrations and license plates for these clean VINs,” Kraehling said.

These falsified documents were then used to reassign the VINs to the stolen vehicles, effectively disguising them and making them appear legitimate. The stolen vehicles, now with new identities, were sold to unsuspecting buyers or used in other criminal activities throughout the city. The vehicles were predominantly sold through various online marketplaces.

The investigation revealed that some of the stolen vehicles were registered to non-existent or deceased individuals to further confuse law enforcement. The probe was initiated after investigators reviewed documents seized from a ServiceOntario location as part of another Toronto police investigation.

“We identified certain patterns in names that led us to this group of individuals,” Kraehling noted.

Police confirmed that there are no outstanding suspects in connection with the case. The recovered vehicles have an estimated value of $9.5 million, including 21 luxury vehicles valued at around $1.8 million.

Inspector Heather Nichols and Detective Daniel Kraehling provided updates on the investigation, highlighting the collaborative efforts of law enforcement to tackle auto theft in the city. This operation follows a significant increase in auto theft insurance claims in Toronto, with claims up 561 percent since 2018, as reported by the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

This investigation is part of a broader effort to address the rise in auto thefts, with federal authorities also unveiling a national plan to combat the issue, including proposed changes to the criminal code.

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