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Stopped thieves

MONTREAL, Que. – Montreal lost a bargain-basement wholesaler this April when the Surete du Quebec (SQ) put the cuffs on six people connected with a network of cargo theft criminals. They were involved in the thefts of at least 23 trailer...


MONTREAL, Que. – Montreal lost a bargain-basement wholesaler this April when the Surete du Quebec (SQ) put the cuffs on six people connected with a network of cargo theft criminals. They were involved in the thefts of at least 23 trailer loads of goods, ranging from dog cookies to soup.

The total value of the goods stolen was estimated to be over $2 million, according to SQ spokesperson Sgt. Joyce Kemp.

Police arrested four men and two women between the ages of 20 and 47 and carried out four search warrants: one in a warehouse on the Island of Montreal, and three in homes located in Saint-Sauveur, Drummondville and Saint-Denis-sur-Richelieu.

The ring is not linked to organized crime groups, such as the Montreal Mafia, Rock Machine or the Hells Angels, according to Sgt. Kemp.

The SQ did not provide any details on the methods that the thieves used to pull off the heists. It only revealed a very general modus operandi, that thieves would steal tractor-trailers, or just the trailers, and sell the contents to a wholesaler, who would then store them in a warehouse in Montreal.

Buyers would drop in and shop for what they wanted, much like how honest shoppers cruise the aisles in big box stores and load up on bulk purchases, according to Sgt. Kemp. To her knowledge, police have not arrested any of the warehouse shoppers.

The SQ, in collaboration with sister police forces in Montreal, Quebec City, Chaudiere Appalaches and le Mauricie kicked off the seven-month investigation last October, after thieves made off with a load of cereal products in Saint-Liboire, roughly 65 kilometres east of Montreal.

Over the course of the investigation, the SQ tallied 21 thefts in several regions of Quebec and two from Ontario.

One tractor-trailer, for example, was stolen in Saint-Hyacinthe last Oct. 14. Police later found the trailer on the Island of Montreal, minus its load of soup.

That same day, also in Saint-Hyacinthe, thieves made off with a tractor-trailer and its load of dog cookies. Police later caught up with the empty trailer just a few kilometres outside of the town, which is about a half-hour drive east of Montreal.

Although the SQ declined to name the victims of any of the other thefts, the streets on which two of the thefts occurred have manufacturing and distribution facilities.

This suggests that at least some of the thefts were from shipper or carrier yards.

Although the SQ did not explain exactly why it launched this particular investigation when it did – after all, cargo theft is an ongoing problem – its investigative division in Monteregie, a region encompassing an area south and east of Montreal, dedicated officers to uncovering the network’s activities following two other thefts: One in May, 2012 and another the following month in Levi, just east of Quebec City, in which thieves drove off with a trailer load of energy drinks.

Although police have dismantled a cargo theft network, the SQ cited confidentiality when asked whether the investigation was ongoing.

Similarly, the SQ declined to explain how it knew that the 23 thefts were connected to this ring. It also did not provide details of just how the thieves carried out the heists, although it is a safe bet, judging from the streets named in the examples provided by the SQ, that thieves stole at least some from shippers’ yards.

Sgt. Kemp did mention, however, that these thieves used a completely different style than that used by thieves in some heists in 2010 and 2011 in the Monteregie region.

In these, enterprising thieves duped shippers and carriers into giving them shipments, including chicken, pork, chocolate, perfume and pop, which promptly dropped off the map.

 “Often, an ad (had been) placed on a Web site that allows shippers and carriers to announce their transport or make facilities available to transport in specific geographic locations,” Sgt. Kemp explains. “With this information, the suspects were able to identify the types of goods that were available to be transported. They would fraudulently use the coordinates of an existing company and make an interesting submission to the (company that placed the ad) in order to obtain the transport of the merchandise. They would then take possession of the shipment. The merchandise was not delivered to the customer as agreed. It was taken by the suspects and often the trailer was found empty.”

Sgt. Kemp passes on these tips to avoid getting duped like this: Verify the company documents, such as licences and insurance, when a driver comes to pick up a load. Ask to see photo ID of the driver and take notes of the details on the ID. Take notes on features of the tractor-trailer and write down the licence plate numbers.

The SQ can be contacted about cargo theft information at 800-659-4264.


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