ServiceOntario employee worked with auto theft ring to forge vehicle documents: police

Toronto Police say they’ve dismantled an auto theft ring that saw members allegedly conspire with a ServiceOntario employee to falsify documents, making stolen vehicles appear legitimate.

Investigators said Project Poacher was launched in January 2024 and ultimately resulted in four arrests, 28 charges and the seizure of 100 stolen vehicles worth approximately $9.5 million.

Police allege the group was re-vinning stolen vehicles in Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and using a ServiceOntario employee to help make the vehicles appear legitimate so they could be resold.

Re-vinning is the alteration of a stolen vehicle’s identification number to make it look legitimate.

“As the project progressed we learned that the suspects were conspiring with a former ServiceOntario member. This former employee was allegedly being paid by members of this group to provide clean vehicle documents and plates in order to disguise stolen motor vehicles making them appear legit to unsuspecting buyers,” Det. Daniel Kraehling explained at a news conference Friday.

“In exchange for money, the former [ServiceOntario] employee would then create new legitimate looking vehicle registrations and licence plates … these falsified documents were then used to re-vin the stolen vehicles, effectively disguising them and making them appear legitimate.”

Kraehling said the suspects provided the ServiceOntario employee with VINS from vehicles that had previously been sold and exported out of the country. Some vehicles were even registered to non-existent or deceased people, he added.

Police executed seven search warrants throughout Toronto and the GTA on May 7, leading to the arrests.

Investigators don’t believe there are any outstanding suspects.

Shakaib Hashmi, 27, of Toronto; Aaron Mundy, 23, of Oshawa; Antonio Valle-Garay, 22, of Vaughan and Howard Lee, 25, of Markham, face numerous theft, forgery and fraud charges.

“When purchasing a used vehicle, police recommend that buyers obtain vehicle history reports,” a police release advises. “Re-vinned vehicles will often have discrepancies in their vehicle histories such as being the wrong colour or having inconsistent odometer readings.”

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