Police crack huge cargo theft ring
TORONTO, Ont. — Police say they’ve taken down the group responsible for a large percentage of the truck hijackings in and around the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
The criminal ring, whose ranks include members of the internationally powerful Bandidos outlaw biker gang, is alleged to have stolen truckloads of everything from diapers to riding lawnmowers, as well as being involved in the distribution of a massive amount of hot truck cargo.
Gang members would hijack tractor-trailers without knowing what they contained until they opened them, says inspector Len Favreau, who heads the Peel crimes against property unit.
“It was very organized,” says detective Joanna Beaven of the Toronto Police Service, noting that stolen property was stored in warehouses. “They were very aware of all of the trucking companies in the GTA.”
To date, some $3 million of stolen property has been recovered, with an unspecified quantity of illegal drugs and weapons, including an Uzi sub-machinegun, also seized according to police.
“These are criminal organizations that are worldwide in nature,” says detective inspector Don Bell of the OPP biker squad. The six-month, multi-faceted project involved officers from Toronto, York Region, the OPP, RCMP, Peel Region and the Criminal Intelligence Service of Ontario.
More than 145 charges were laid against 27 people, including several charges of possession of property obtained by crime over $5,000, after two rounds of busts were made over the summer.
The Bandidos club reportedly has approximately 35 members in Ontario all of whom were targeted by ‘Project Wolf,’ as it was known to police.
Cargo thefts accounted for $13 million in losses in Peel Region alone last year, adds Favreau, noting this crime rate has dropped about 20 per cent so far this year.
Favreau explains the gang had a complete distribution network to repackage and market products they stole.
“A lot of this product ends back up on the street at almost face value,” he says. “Many people believe they are buying legitimate products. There’s absolutely huge profits.”
The investigation showed no major stores bought stolen property from these gang members, but police learned items were being sold at small independently operated stores in strip malls or at flea markets.
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