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$10M worth of stolen cars seized after Ont. police bust 'prolific auto theft group'

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Peel police recovered 78 vehicles allegedly en route to the Middle East after a months-long investigation into an auto theft ring in the Greater Toronto Area.

“The seizure is worth $10 million, and takes that money out of organized crime that could otherwise support other criminal activity,” Peel Regional Police Chief Nishan Duraiappah said during a news conference at headquarters on Tuesday morning.

Two of the four suspects, Imad Assi and Altayab Brafcany, charged in connection with Peel police's 'prolific' auto theft bust. (Peel Regional Police)

“In the first two months of 2023 here in Peel Region alone, our officers have seized and recovered over 500 stolen autos, and for frame of reference, in 2022 alone, 2,400 stolen autos were recovered.”

Project R&R, a months-long multi-jurisdictional investigation, which commenced in October 2022, focused on auto theft across the GTA, Quebec, and overseas.

Alongside Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), Port of Montreal, and Equite Association, police said they recovered 78 vehicles worth more than $10 million. They said they also seized a quantity of Canadian and U.S. dollars, a quantity of cocaine, and a stolen ramp to load the vehicles.

During the announcement, police confirmed the stolen vehicles were recovered at various locations and ports, including Brampton, Montreal, Germany, and Spain.

A few of the alleged stolen vehicles seized as a result of Project R&R. (Peel Regional Police)

Police confirmed many of the stolen vehicles were on their way to the United Arab Emirates.

“Officers arrested four individuals, involved in the organized theft, transport, and export of high-end vehicles including Range Rovers from within the Region of Peel,” Insp. Trevor Oldham said Tuesday. “These individuals primarily targeted residences during the early morning hours, and were able to remove GPS units in less than 10 minutes in some instances.”

Police allege the group targeted several locations in the GTA, including Toronto Pearson International Airport and other underground parking garages.

Peel police arrested 29-year-old Imad Assi, 29-year-old Altayab Brafcany, 44-year-old Re’Fat Faris Mustafa Khatabeh, and 48-year-old Michael Zureiqat.

The four suspects are facing 34 charges in total, including, but not limited to, theft of motor vehicle, possession of property obtained by crime, possession of prohibited device, and possession for the purpose of trafficking.

“We do ask that consumers, our residents, do their part as well to protect themselves do whatever they can to keep their key fobs hidden, to cover up their VIN numbers to keep themselves safe,” Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie said Tuesday. “Everyone has a part in this not only law enforcement, but our residents have a part in this as well.”

The investigation is ongoing, and police ask anyone with information to call investigators at 905-453-2121, ext. 1133. Anonymous tips can also be sent in through Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or online at peelcrimestoppers.ca

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