Ontario Provincial Police say 20 Quebec residents are facing a total of 350 charges following a months-long investigation into the thefts of hundreds of luxury vehicles across central and eastern Ontario.
The investigation, named Project Shildon, was started in June by OPP after police received a spike in reports of vehicle thefts in the Ottawa area.
According to an OPP release, the vehicles were stolen from dealerships, various Ontario neighbourhoods and even in some cases from people’s driveways.
In a news conference given in Ottawa on Tuesday, Supt. Bryan MacKillop, director of the OPP’s organized crime enforcement bureau, said the ring was run by two groups, one who would focus on stealing individual vehicles from neighbourhoods and another that would steal several vehicles at a time from dealerships across Ontario.
In total, OPP say nearly 500 vehicles were stolen from various regions across Ontario, with the Greater Toronto Area and the Ottawa region being the worst affected.
Several smaller communities like Kingston, Cornwall and Hawkesbury were targeted as well.
OPP said the thefts were part of a “highly organized operation” that had a goal of exporting the stolen vehicles in shipping containers overseas through the Port of Montreal to Africa, more specifically to Ghana and Nigeria.
Over the course of the last several months, police were able to recover 97 stolen vehicles before they were shipped overseas.
Along with the vehicles, OPP say investigators executed search warrants in the Montreal region last week, where tools used to allegedly break into vehicles were seized. Replica key fobs and drugs such as methamphetamine, MDMA, cocaine, ecstasy and cannabis were seized.
The investigation was led by the OPP along with the following agencies:
- Service de police de Laval
- Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal
- Canada Border Services Agency
- Insurance Bureau of Canada
- York Regional Police
- Ottawa Police Service
Provincial police say the Halton Regional Police Service and Toronto Police Service also aided in the investigation.
Although police have currently laid 350 charges, they expect to lay more drug offences in the coming weeks following the seizures from the search warrants executed last week. OPP also noted that many of those they arrested as part of project Shildon have been arrested for similar crimes before.
“These are commodity-specific criminals who repeat the same offences over and over again,” MacKillop said.
In total, over 100 officers were involved in the five-months-long project and 20 people, all from Quebec, are facing charges following the conclusion of the investigation. See a full list of those charged here.