These guys had a pretty slick operation…
York Regional Police in Ontario, Canada have arrested 18 people who are facing over 170 criminal charges for running an international car theft ring. The group had been stealing high-end vehicles, almost exclusively Toyota and Lexus SUVs, from driveways in Ontario and shipping them to Nigeria, Ghana, and the United Arab Emirates to be resold. According to police, these criminals had a pretty smooth operation running, that was until they were caught, with $4.5 million in cars in their possession at the time of the bust.
Learn how thieves are using wildlife camera to take your car here.
Police say the group would go out in the early evening, driving around residential areas to scout for luxury cars to steal later. Making note of the location of the different vehicles, they’d return in the early morning hours when most people would be asleep.
Rather than hacking the keyless entry and ignition system, these thieves preferred to remove the entire door lock cylinder to gain access. Then they’d reprogram the computer to recognize a new fob they brought along. Total time to do all this was 5 minutes or less, so these guys were practiced. This shows that criminals can be creative and use a variety of methods to swipe your ride. It’s also worth noting they were going after cars left sitting in driveways overnight, which is why we counsel everyone to garage their vehicle at night if at all possible.
Another move police recommend is installing a lockable cover for the OBDII port in your vehicle. This makes reprogramming the computer a harder process, so thieves might pass your car over for another.
The vehicles would either be loaded on train cars and transported to the Port of Montreal or driven there. Toyota and Lexus were specifically targeted because they’re popular in Africa and the Middle East, so the group could sell them for top dollar.
At the time of the bust, police seized 60 cars, trucks, and SUVs which had been stolen. Quite a few others are on ships headed to Ghana, Nigeria, and the United Arab Emirates, but once they arrive authorities there will send them back.
Termed Project Majestic, this operation was begun by York Regional Police back in December of 2020.