Several residents of Ontario and Saskatchewan are facing Criminal Code charges following a multi-jurisdictional and inter-provincial investigation into the fraudulent modification and sale of hundreds of stolen vehicles.
The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Organized Crime Enforcement Bureau (OCEB), Provincial Operations Intelligence Bureau (POIB) and Équité Association (Équité) began Project MYRA in September 2020, after uncovering an auto theft network fraudulently modifying stolen vehicles’ identification numbers (VINs) to later sell them through private sales. These thefts occurred mainly in Ontario.
Through further investigation, the Project MYRA team identified three auto theft-based criminal organizations involved in these thefts:
- A criminal organization based in Peel Region responsible for re-vinning (altering VINs) vehicles stolen from Ontario, fraudulently registering the vehicles and reselling these vehicles.
- A criminal organization based in Durham Region and Toronto responsible for fraudulently registering stolen vehicles in Saskatchewan, transferring the fraudulent vehicle documentation to Ontario, registering the vehicles in Ontario and reselling these vehicles to various individuals, including criminal networks.
- A criminal organization based in York Region responsible for re-vinning high-end stolen vehicles, fraudulently registering the stolen vehicles, then reselling or keeping those vehicles.
Due to the complexity and inter-provincial nature of this investigation, a joint-forces investigative team was formed including the OPP Biker Enforcement Unit, the OPP Organized Crime Towing Industry Project, Durham Regional Police Service (DRPS), Halton Regional Police Service (HRPS), Peel Regional Police (PRP), Saskatoon Police Service (SPS) and York Regional Police (YRP). The Toronto Police Service, the Ottawa Police Service, the Windsor Police Service, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Transportation and the Ministry of Public and Business Service Delivery have also supported this investigation.
A wide range of stolen vehicle makes and models have been recovered, including high-end vehicles. Honda/Acura has accounted for 37 per cent of vehicles recovered.
Contained within the Addendum of Charged Persons are employees of ServiceOntario who are accused of assisting with the illegitimate registration of stolen vehicles.
Throughout the investigation, police executed 27 search warrants in various locations with assistance of members from the investigative team as well as TPS, OPS and WPS.
Citizens of Ontario deserve to have peace of mind when it comes to making a purchase as large as a vehicle. The criminal organizations involved in Project Myra have tarnished that. We want to take this opportunity to remind everyone to be extremely cautious and use judgement and discretion when purchasing a used vehicle. If any part of the transaction, or anything leading up to the transaction seems suspicious, do not provide funds. Contact law enforcement.”
– OPP Deputy Commissioner Chuck Cox, Provincial Commander, Investigations and Organized Crime
On July 19 and 20, 2022, the OPP OCEB, Community Street Crime Units, Emergency Response Team, Highway Safety Division and Digital Forensics, with assistance from Équité, DRPS, HRPS, PRP, SPS, MTO, Waterloo Regional Police Service and YRP, executed an additional 17 search warrants in Toronto, Peel Region, York Region, Waterloo and Saskatoon.
Collectively, a total of 44 warrants have been executed resulting in the seizure of:
- Six firearms
- 230 grams suspected fentanyl
- 1,840 grams suspected cocaine
- 77 kilograms cannabis
- 150 grams suspected cannabis resin
- 10 grams suspected psilocybin
- $8,400 US currency
- $160,000 CAD currency
- Two money counters
- Two laser marking machines
Twenty-eight people have been charged with 242 offences, including charges related to the Criminal Code, the Cannabis Act and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. A full list is available on the Addendum of Charged Persons within the Project MYRA media kit. Upon arrest, five of the accused were held in custody. The remaining were released and are scheduled to appear at the Ontario Court of Justice in Peel Region and Saskatchewan Court in Saskatoon on various dates in July and August 2022.
Project MYRA has been an extensive operation, and police continue to identify and locate re-vinned vehicles associated to these criminal organizations. The investigation is ongoing.
Members of the public should be cautious when purchasing a vehicle through a private sale. Buyers should ensure they retrieve as much information as possible on both the vehicle and the seller and perform due diligence in advance of providing any funds to the seller. Buyers should be suspicious of a private seller who will not provide identification or who insists on receiving cash as payment.