Edmonton: An international auto theft network with ties to organized crime has been foiled following a lengthy investigation spearheaded by Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT), Alberta Government, and the RCMP.
Over one hundred stolen vehicles have been identified as stolen in a complex scheme that took various law enforcement agencies over one year to unravel. The investigation began in November 2012 and involved several law enforcement agencies, including:
- Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams;
- Special Investigations Unit, Service Alberta;
- RCMP Montreal National Port Enforcement Team;
- Insurance Bureau Canada;
- Terrebonne Police Service;
- Sûreté du Québec;
- Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec;
- Edmonton Police Service.
Investigators allege that high-end trucks, SUVs, and luxury sedans were being stolen in Quebec and were then re-identified using counterfeit vehicles identification numbers (VIN). The vehicles were then registered by associates in Alberta and other provinces using federally numbered corporations at various local registries. The process was made possible by using fraudulent bills of sale and new vehicles information statements (NVIS) cards.
Typically the vehicles would then be re-registered in Quebec and sold at steep discounts through a network of friends and associates. Seven of the vehicles were traced to Ghana, Africa and two more were intercepted en route to Costa Rica. ALERT has recovered 53 of the stolen vehicles with some located in Edmonton, Calgary, Fort McMurray, and Quebec. The value of the recovered vehicles exceeds $3 million.
The auto theft ring was highly organized with certain people tasked with stealing particular makes of vehicles, others manufacturing the labels and VINs, and others responsible for registrations and “legitimizing” the vehicles.
Several Alberta and Quebec suspects have been identified and investigators are in the process of recommending charges in consultation with crown prosecutors. The investigation remains on-going and additional investigations are now taking place across Canada.
According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, auto theft costs Canadians $1 billion per year, if one considers health care, court, policing, legal and out-of-pocket costs such as deductibles.