Mississauga, Ontario -- November 27, 2016 -- An incident in March 2016 that involved the theft of two vehicles from the same driveway has concluded with the arrest of 23 people and the recover of 60 vehicles with a total value of $3.4 million.
The investigation, dubbed Project Cyclone, was spearheaded by York Regional Police, with the assistance of the Toronto Police Service and Peel Regional Police. A statement from York Regional Police says Project Cyclone has "dismantled an organized crime auto theft ring, laid 137 charges against 23 people and recovered a total of $5 million in stolen, high-end vehicles, stolen cargo, drugs and cash."
“Auto theft remains a significant problem in Canada, costing our country millions of dollars every year,” said Dan Beacock, Director, Auto Theft, Insurance Bureau of Canada. “Collaborative efforts, such as Project Cyclone, make a definite impact and are a benefit to all of us. We wish to thank all the officers involved.”
The investigation began in 2015 into an organized group with ties to criminal activity including vehicle thefts. Last winter, York Regional Police saw an increase in incidents of "warm-up thefts." The term refers to the practice of stealing a vehicle that is left running in someone's driveway or parking space. Most of these thefts were carried out in the early morning hours.
On March 3, 2016, undercover officers responded to an incident in the City of Vaughan where two vehicles warming up were stolen from the same driveway. Officers followed the suspects to the area of Hanlan Road in the vicinity of a garage allegedly operated by the organized crime group.
The spike in thefts coincided with the establishment of Benefit Motors, a body shop on Hanlan Road in Vaughan, Ontario. The facility is allegedly operated by Balwinder Dhaliwal. Dhaliwal is previously known to police and was once profiled on the TV series Masterminds, which depicts true crime stories, due to his reputation for operating chop shops and car theft rings. His wife, Kuljit Dhaliwal, and his son, Balkevinjit Dhaliwal, have also been charged.
Det. Sgt. Paul LaSalle told CTV News that stolen vehicles were brought to Benefit Motors and other locations where their VINs would be removed and replaced with counterfeit VINS belonging to American vehicles. Some of the vehicles were sold, either in Canada or other countries. Others were allegedly used to support other criminal activities, such as transporting drugs.
|Two vehicles recovered as part of Project Cyclone are pictured at York Regional Police Headquarters.|
York Regional Police investigators began a joint-forces operation working with Peel Regional Police and Toronto Police Service. The project was dubbed Project Cyclone based on the way the suspects cloned or concealed stolen vehicles by removing the VIN numbers on the stolen vehicles and replacing them with VIN numbers from vehicles that had been shipped overseas.
This investigation also led officers to uncover additional criminal incidents including a kidnapping plot, drug trafficking, weapons possession and cargo theft. In addition to the $3.4 million worth of vehicles noted above, the investigation also recovered $1.4 million of stolen property including alcohol, car parts and a trailer load of Nutella. Officers also seized firearms, drugs and $200,000 in cash.
“I want to thank the dedicated and highly-skilled individuals at York Regional Police, Toronto, and Peel, who worked long and hard to bring this investigation to a successful conclusion,” said York Regional Police Chief Eric Jolliffe. “I am proud to showcase the great work being done by our people, to make our community safer.”
Many of the vehicles involved in this investigation were stolen either by warm-up thefts or through residential break and enters where a home was entered and vehicle keys were taken.