Police say they've charged 28 people in Ontario and Saskatchewan, including several ServiceOntario employees, following an investigation into the fraudulent modification and sale of hundreds of stolen vehicles.
In a news release Thursday, Ontario Provincial Police said they began an investigation in September 2020 after uncovering an alleged auto theft network that they say was modifying stolen vehicles' identification numbers in order to sell them through private sales.
The thefts occurred mainly in Ontario, the OPP said.
Through the investigation dubbed "Project MYRA," police said they recovered 214 vehicles valued at more than $12 million. A wide range of stolen vehicle makes and models were recovered, including high-end vehicles.
Honda and Acura accounted for 37 per cent of the vehicles recovered.
Police identified three alleged auto theft criminal organizations involved in the thefts, including one in Peel Region, one in Durham Region and Toronto, and another in York Region. They noted that employees of ServiceOntario are accused of assisting with the illegitimate registration of stolen vehicles.
Officers from the OPP and multiple other police forces executed a total of 44 search warrants in various locations including Toronto, Peel Region, York Region, Waterloo and Saskatoon.
From these searches, police said they seized six firearms, large quantities of drugs including more than 200 grams of suspected fentanyl and 1,840 grams of suspected cocaine, and large sums of money, among other things.
The OPP said 28 people have been charged with 242 offences, including charges related to the Criminal Code, the Cannabis Act and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
Five of the accused were being held in custody, while the remaining were released and scheduled to appear in court on various dates in July and August 2022, they added.
"Project MYRA has been an extensive operation, and police continue to identify and locate re-vinned vehicles associated to these criminal organizations," the police force said.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Public and Business Service Delivery said the province takes these matters "extremely seriously" and is working with police "to support their investigation."
"We do not speak to matters that are part of an active police investigation or matters before the court."
The investigation is ongoing.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 28, 2022.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Noushin Ziafati, The Canadian Press