August 28, 2014 3:54 pm

Police seize $2.3M in stolen high-end cars in international bust

ABOVE: Toronto police release details of the 2.3 million dollars in luxury cars retrieved in a series of early morning raids

TORONTO – Eight people were arrested and $2.3 million in luxury cars retrieved after early morning raids dealt a blow, police say, to an international car theft ring.

The Toronto Police Service, along with Canadian Border Services Agends and police officers from York, Halton, Peel, Niagara executed more than 30 raids Thursday morning in homes, businesses and a storage container.

Police named the investigation Project YellowBird after a yellow Porsche Carrera stolen from a home in north Toronto during December’s ice storm.

Superintendent Scott Gilbert said the suspects were forced to break in to the homes when searching for the cars because of “immobilizer” technology in the car that prevents anyone from driving it without the programmable key.

The estimated 23 break-ins were motivated by searches for those keys, he said; stolen jewellery and other property were just added benefit.

A photo of a stolen Mercedes seized by police in the Project Yellowbird raids.

Handout / Toronto Police Service

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Gilbert said the suspects would drive nice cars so as to not look out of place in fancy neighbourhoods – and it worked. Residents said they noticed people roaming around their neighbours’ homes but didn’t call police because the strangers didn’t seem “out of place.”

“This isn’t a bunch of kids going out and breaking into houses during lunch hour,” said Police Chief Bill Blair. “[This is a] very sophisticated and up until this morning a highly successful criminal enterprise.”

Police retrieved 23 vehicles, including a Bentley, various model BMWs, Mercedes SUVs, an Aston Martin and the yellow Porsche. They say the estimated value of the cars nears $2.3 million.

Four of the cars – including the yellow Porsche – were found in Europe.

Blair suggested the criminal organization was operating well before the ice storm, when Toronto police investigators began looking into car thefts.