More than 300 charges laid in investigation into auto theft ring, $11.1M worth of cars recovered

Stolen vehicles recovered as part of Project High 5 are seen in this photograph provided by Peel Regional Police.

Two dozen people are facing more than 300 charges combined in connection with an investigation into what police are calling a “prolific auto theft ring” in the Greater Toronto Area.

According to Peel police, the investigation—dubbed “Project High 5”—spanned multiple jurisdictions over a six-month period. It began after police documented an increase in motor vehicles being stolen from residents within the Region of Peel and the Greater Toronto Area.

Police allege suspects forced open a driver’s door, obtained access to the vehicle’s On Board Diagnostic Port, and then used that device to program a new key fob.

“These were not the result of relay thefts and were captured by victims and neighbouring residences on home security,” police said in a news release issued Thursday.

Investigators say the car owners lived in residential neighbourhoods and were targeted while they slept. The vehicles were then loaded into shipping containers to export to the United States and multiple West African and Middle Eastern Countries, police added.

According to police, investigators identified vehicles that had been fraudulently registered in Ontario and sold to “unsuspecting automotive dealerships, online dealer platforms and unassuming buyers.”

On Jan. 19, officers executed search warrants at nine residential areas across the regions of Peel, Halton and York.

As a result, police recovered 217 vehicles valued at about $11.1 million. They also seized a loaded .45 calibre hand gun with a prohibited extended magazine, more than $100,000 in Canadian currency, an unspecified amount of drugs, automobile forgery documents and instruments, and fraudulent government documents.

Twenty-four people were taken into custody and charged in connection with the investigation, including two people under the age of 18. While the majority of suspects are residents of the Greater Toronto Area, five are from Montreal and another two are from Uxbridge and Whitby respectively.

In total, the suspects face a combined 321 charges.

Police say the investigation is ongoing and they anticipate further arrests.

“Project High 5” was a collaboration between Peel Regional Police, Halton Regional Police, York Regional Police and the Ontario Provincial Police. Officials also said that members from the Canada Border Services Agency, Mississauga, Port of Montreal – SPVM Police, Equite Association, Port of Halifax and the Halifax Police Service.