Twelve people are facing a total of 81 charges as part of an investigation into an alleged auto theft and insurance fraud ring in the Greater Toronto Area, Peel Regional Police say.
At a news conference Wednesday, investigators said the majority of those arrested were previously employed in the automotive or automotive finance industry and therefore had insider knowledge on how to "re-vin" a vehicle, which is a process of altering a vehicle registration number to a fraudulent one.
Those involved would then fraudulently re-register a vehicle before selling it, police say.
"As a result of the comprehensive investigation, it was determined that the accused individuals used their pre-existing knowledge in the automotive and finance industry to complete these fraudulent transactions," acting Det. Sgt. Simon Kennedy told reporters.
"It is believed that the re-vinned vehicles were trafficked to buyers who were paid to fraudulently buy the vehicles. In some cases, the buyers attempted to submit fraudulent insurance claims by reporting their vehicle stolen."
The months-long project, which launched in March, resulted in the arrest of 12 people and a total of 81 charges laid. Police also recovered nine stolen vehicles, which included BMWs, Range Rovers and a Bentley, which they value at more than $1.2 million. Additionally, police say they prevented more than $350,000 in insurance fraud.
Investigators say most of the vehicles recovered were either stolen from residential driveways or directly from dealership lots.
The investigation began when officers were first alerted about a vehicle that had possibly been re-vinned. Peel investigators worked alongside the Commercial Auto Crime Bureau and Equite Association as part of the bust.
Some of the accused also attempted to defraud multiple financial and insurance institutions, according to police.
Those who were arrested are from different cities in the GTA including Mississauga, Brampton, Hamilton and Toronto, and range in ages from 23 to 36 years old.
The charges include trafficking in stolen goods, fraud over $5,000, possession of property obtained by crime, and forgery.