ServiceOntario employees were among 28 people charged in a major auto-theft bust. Police recovered 214 vehicles valued at more than $12 million dollars in the two-year multi-jurisdictional operation.
The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Organized Crime Enforcement Bureau (OCEB), Provincial Operations Intelligence Bureau (POIB) and Équité Association (Équité) began Project MYRA in September 2020, after uncovering an auto theft network fraudulently modifying stolen vehicles’ identification numbers (VINs) to later sell them through private sales. These thefts occurred mainly in Ontario.
The Project MYRA team identified auto theft-based criminal organizations in Peel, Durham, York and Toronto that were involved in fraudulently registering stolen vehicles in Ontario and Saskatchewan and reselling (or keeping) them, the OPP said in a statement.
Due to the complexity and inter-provincial nature of this investigation, a joint-forces investigative team was formed including the OPP Biker Enforcement Unit, the OPP Organized Crime Towing Industry Project, Durham Regional Police Service (DRPS), Halton Regional Police Service (HRPS), Peel Regional Police (PRP), Saskatoon Police Service (SPS) and York Regional Police (YRP). The Toronto Police Service, the Ottawa Police Service, the Windsor Police Service, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Transportation and the Ministry of Public and Business Service Delivery have also supported this investigation.
A wide range of stolen vehicle makes and models have been recovered, including high-end vehicles like Lamborghinis. Honda/Acura has accounted for 37 per cent of vehicles recovered.
Contained within the Addendum of Charged Persons are employees of ServiceOntario who are accused of assisting with the illegitimate registration of stolen vehicles, the OPP statement said.
Collectively, a total of 44 search warrants have been executed resulting in the seizure of firearms, fentanyl, suspected cocaine, cannabis, Canadian ($160,000) and US ($8,400) currency, two money counters and two laser marking machines.
Twenty-eight people have been charged with 242 offences. Five of the accused were held in custody. The remaining were released and are scheduled to appear at the Ontario Court of Justice in Peel Region and Saskatchewan Court in Saskatoon on various dates in July and August 2022.
The investigation is ongoing.
Police are advising buyers to be cautious when purchasing a vehicle through a private sale. They should ensure they retrieve as much information as possible on both the vehicle and the seller and perform due diligence in advance of providing any funds to the seller. Buyers should also be suspicious of a private seller who will not provide identification or who insists on receiving cash as payment, police warned.