TORONTO – A group of suspected thieves carjacked 28 high-end vehicles in north Toronto over several months and tried to ship them to destinations overseas, police said Tuesday as they announced seven arrests in the case.
Insp. Richard Harris said an eight-month investigation that began last May revealed that the suspects used handguns, knives and a Taser, and in some cases distraction tactics such as intentional vehicle contact, during the robberies along Yonge Street between Sheppard Avenue and Finch Avenue.
He said the stolen cars – including Lamborghini, McLaren, Rolls Royce, Bentley, Porsche and Mercedes Benz models – were sent to a location east of Toronto before starting a journey overseas.
“The victims were physically removed from the vehicle and the keys they had were taken from them,” Harris said. “The motive, we’ve determined, was obviously for profit.”
Toronto police said they recovered 19 of 28 stolen cars with the help of the Canada Border Services Agency and GPS technology, and an investigation continues to determine the whereabouts of the nine remaining vehicles.
Two of the recovered vehicles were found off the coast of Italy and Malta, three of them were found at a port in Montreal and one was in a Halifax port — those vehicles were destined for the United Arab Emirates, Harris said.
Seven suspects have been arrested and charged with several counts of robbery, disguise with intent, and possession of property obtained by crime, Harris said, adding that police are still looking for one more suspect.
Supt. Lauren Pogue said Toronto has seen a surge in auto thefts in the last few months.
“Those responsible have used a variety of tactics to steal almost every type of vehicle regardless of security features,” she said.
“(They) have operated across borders … in a highly sophisticated way.”
She said the group allegedly responsible for the high-end car thefts detailed Tuesday has no distinct ties to local gang activity, but is part of a complex organization.
Experts have said new technology has made it easier for car thieves to steal vehicles, while a pandemic-driven shortage of semiconductor chips has increased demand.
They say thieves have been seen on surveillance video stealing cars in as little as thirty seconds, right out of someone’s driveway.