A single stolen car sparked an investigation that led police to uncover millions in stolen property as part of Project Yellowbird.
Toronto Police investigators, with help from other law enforcement agencies in the province and the Canada Border Services Agency, have arrested eight people, recovered 23 high-end vehicles and seized cash as well as a large amount of personal property, including jewelry, imitation firearms, designer clothes and purses.
An arrest warrant is also being issued for one more man alleged to be part of an organized crime group that targeted high-end vehicles in affluent areas of the city.
Project Yellowbird was initiated by 32 Division investigators after a yellow Porsche Carrera was stolen from a North Toronto residence during last December’s ice storm. The project expanded to 53 and 22 Division and outside the city.
“We started an investigation into that stolen Porsche and managed to develop a number of leads,” 53 Division unit commander Superintendent Scott Gilbert said, at a press conference at police headquarters on August 28.
“Subsequent to that, 53 Division also experienced a number of high-end break-and-enters targeting residences and the keys to vehicles. In some cases, the vehicles themselves were taken along with a large quantity of property from each of the residences.”
He said that, through thorough investigative work with law enforcement partners, including Peel, Halton and Niagara Regional Police Services and Canada Border Services Agency, nine search warrants were executed on August 28 throughout the Greater Toronto Area and beyond.
The warrants were executed at residences, a business establishment and public storage lockers, and included a cargo container where a number of stolen vehicles and extensive amount of property were located.
The 23 vehicles recovered include vehicle makes such as Porsche, Bentley, Aston Martin, Mercedes and BMW.
The cars’ estimated value is in excess of $2.3 million.
Gilbert said four of the vehicles, including the Porsche, were seized as they arrived in Europe. The Porsche was recovered in Lithuania.
“They were recovered with the help of the Canadian Border Services Agency as well as other law enforcement in Europe and are currently on their way back to Canada to be hopefully reunited with their owners,” he added.
Gilbert pointed out that one of the vehicles recovered on August 28 was stolen in April and moved hours earlier into a shipping container for shipment.
Chief Bill Blair estimates the property stolen amounts to millions of dollars.
“I believe that, when our investigators conclude the tally of the property seized, the recovery of property in this investigation will be in the range of several million dollars, perhaps even tens of millions of dollars,” said Blair. “The conclusion of this investigation is not merely measured by what is recovered, but by the dismantling of this criminal enterprise.
“One of the things that is unique about this organization is the level of sophistication. This isn’t a bunch of kids going out and breaking into houses during the lunch hour. This is, as we allege, a sophisticated, organised criminal enterprise – people who are working together with various skill sets in order to obtain property.”
Investigators will be sharing further details about stolen property and charges on August 29.