Police bust alleged $1.6M car theft ring that exported high-end vehicles out of Canada

The excerpted article was written by Sean Davidson CTV News Toronto

TORONTO — Four people have been charged after police busted an alleged $1.6-million car theft ring that spanned across southern Ontario, exporting high-end stolen vehicles out of Canada.

Police in Hamilton, Ont. began their investigation, dubbed Project Seagull, in August 2019 after authorities became aware of the thefts.

The auto theft ring, which operated out of the city of Hamilton, targeted mainly rental cars, police allege.

Seven of the 39 vehicles stolen were found on a shipping container bound for Iraq, police said. Investigators believe other vehicles that have not yet been recovered have been shipped around the world.

On Dec. 5, police executed search warrants on six Hamilton businesses and three residences. While conducting their searches, officers seized 12 more stolen vehicles, numerous vehicle parts, cash, gold jewelry and other suspected stolen items.

Police said they also recovered fraudulent vehicle identification numbers, shipping documents and stolen Mexican passports.

How the alleged car theft ring operated

The majority of the auto thefts carried out by the accused targeted rental car companies, police allege.

Police said the suspects would use fraudulent documents to rent vehicles and never return them.

In some cases, the suspects would allegedly rent vehicles and clone the keys before returning them. Police said the suspects would then go back and steal the cars with the cloned keys.

“These four accused have a network going on,” Det. Sgt. Andrea Torrie said on Monday. “We have evidence they have probably been doing this for a couple of years.”

“We’re hoping we caused a major disruption in their business at this point.”

Who police charged

Three men and one woman have been charged in connection with the car thefts.

Yehia Al-Jbouri, 50, faces more than 50 charges in connection with the investigation, including possession of property obtained by crime and trafficking of property obtained by crime.

Zeyad Al-Khafaji, 45, has been charged with fraudulent concealment and conspiracy to commit.

Amer Al-Ogaili, 46, faces over 25 charges, including possession of property obtained by crime and trafficking in property obtained by crime.

Nahla Khayon, 46, is facing one charge of possession of property obtained by crime.

Three of the accused were released on their own recognizance and their first court appearance is Jan. 6, 2020. Khayon has been released on a Promise To Appear, with a future court date set for Jan. 21, 2020.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada estimates auto thefts costs Canadians close to $1 billion yearly. In 2018, southern Ontario alone saw 9,500 thefts.

Hamilton police is asking anyone with information to contact Detective Sergeant Andrea Torrie at 905-546-2991 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-8477.

Lax regulations mean automakers can ‘bury’ reports of vehicle fires, says advocate

The excerpted article was written by Yvonne Colbert · CBC News

When Alan Bassett picked up his new 2018 GMC Sierra from a dealership in Alberta on July 19, 2018, he had no idea it would be a flaming heap of metal less than 30 minutes later.

“I heard a pop and my wife, who was driving ahead of me, pulled off [the road] and shouted, “Get Out! You’re on fire!” Bassett said. He then pulled over and “watched it burn to the ground.”

Bassett, who lives in Turner Valley, Alta., said the fire first appeared under the hood on the driver’s side and engulfed the vehicle within three minutes.

“I couldn’t believe that something I had paid fifty-some thousand dollars for 30 minutes ago was going up in smoke,” he said.

Bassett filed an insurance claim and a week after the fire, GMC told his insurance company to cancel the claim. The automaker made a deal to replace the truck and took it to investigate, but Bassett doesn’t know what that investigation revealed.

Transport Canada is the federal government department responsible for vehicle safety. Manufacturers are not obligated to report incidents involving vehicles they manufacture. However, they are required to inform the department and the vehicle owner “when they become aware of a defect that may affect the safe operation of a motor vehicle.”

George Iny with the Automobile Protection Association (APA), a national consumer advocacy organization, is worried some automakers make consumer complaints “disappear” by not logging them. He said this keeps the manufacturer blind to patterns that would reveal safety risks they’re required to address.

“We can do much better than the situation APA sees today, in which some automakers bury safety-related complaints by not recording them properly and not reporting them to Transport Canada, and misinform other consumers who experience the same problem,” said Iny.

Iny pointed to Mercedes-Benz, the Smart car’s manufacturer, who told several owners of burnt Smart vehicles that their experience was unique. Iny said the fires were not reported to Transport Canada by Mercedes-Benz, but the APA and CBC News had reports of six vehicles damaged or destroyed by fire.

In October, CBC reported on a New Brunswick man whose 2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 caught fire when he was driving it and exploded in flames within minutes of him jumping out.

On Aug. 22, mechanic Jonathan Gillingham was driving his 2015 GMC Yukon XL in downtown Fort McMurray, Alta., when he smelled something and pulled over.

“As soon as I came to a stop, I could see the smoke billowing out of the hood,” he said. “As soon as I opened the door and looked under the vehicle, I saw light coming from the engine bay, so I knew there was a fire.”

Gillingham said three other drivers rushed to put out the blaze with fire extinguishers, but it did “absolutely nothing, which as a mechanic tells me it’s fuel-related in some fashion.”

On Aug. 22, 2019, Jonathan Gillingham was driving his 2015 GMC Yukon XL in Fort McMurray, Alta., when he smelled something and pulled over and got out. The truck was engulfed in flames within three minutes, he told CBC News. 0:13

He said flames shot out of the back window and within three minutes, the truck was engulfed. In 10 minutes, there was nothing left but the vehicle’s frame.

Gillingham said the truck is his wife’s vehicle that she uses to transport their three kids. He doesn’t know if she would have pulled over after smelling something.

“Would it have been a minute later, two minutes later? And if so, how much time would she have had to get my children unstrapped and out of the backseat before there were flames coming out the back window?” he said.

After the fire, Gillingham said he called GMC for six to seven weeks, leaving multiple messages each week. He finally got a response on Oct. 7 from an official telling him the cause of the fire couldn’t be determined. The matter was settled through insurance and Gillingham is frustrated the company didn’t provide additional compensation.



These are the top 10 stolen vehicles in Atlantic Canada in 2019

Car thieves using their own technology to bypass anti-theft safeguards

The excerpted article was written by  | The Chronicle Herald

Stolen car numbers dropped in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador in 2018, but were up in the other Atlantic Canadian provinces.

Nova Scotia’s number was down four per cent from 2017, while Newfoundland and Labrador dropped one per cent. New Brunswick was up seven per cent and Prince Edward Island numbers increased 69 per cent.

The island’s figure shows a statistical anomaly based on the low overall numbers of stolen cars to begin with, said Bryan Gast of the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

On Tuesday, the bureau released its annual list of top stolen vehicles in the country. And while eight of the top 10 countrywide are Ford trucks that predate 2007 and mandatory ignition immobilizers, the Atlantic Canadian list has some newer, higher-end vehicles.

There are only two Fords on the list in the Atlantic region.

Tops on the list are the 2007 Suburbans and Yukon Xls. There are also BMW, Lexus and Infiniti models, the 2014 Dodge Charger and a Mitsubishi.

But while older vehicles have dominated the national list in recent years, thieves are using technology to get around some of the safeguards in newer cars.

“Technology is starting to sneak into the equation,” said Gast, the insurance bureau’s national director of investigative services.

He said stolen car numbers started to drop a decade ago after the ignition immobilizers, which prevent vehicles from being hot-wired, became mandatory.

But now thieves are looking for new ways to steal the vehicles, and that’s by bypassing the systems.

Gast said there are probably a smaller number of thieves who have that ability, “but they’re after the higher-end vehicles. Those are the ones being facilitated by organized crime and being shipped overseas for significant profit margins. It’s double what they could be sold for here.”

He said thieves are cloning keyless entry fobs by stealing their signal, either from homes or in public areas.

They have devices that can intercept the signal from a key fob even if the keys are inside a house near the front door, and then make a fob clone.

“They can take your car without actually entering your home to steal your keys,” Gast said.

He said the same thing can happen in parking lots if drivers double-check to see if their car is locked by pressing the lock button.

“That opens you up to having the signal intercepted,” Gast said. “Once you’re in the mall or out of sight they’ll drive off with your vehicle.”

He said people steal vehicles to either commit another crime or for parts, to joyride, or to ship overseas. The last category is where most of the high-end vehicles land.

There was a 1.9 per cent increase in the number of stolen vehicles across the country, with Ontario up 17 per cent, Gast said the national numbers represent 1,017 more vehicles stolen in 2018 than in the previous year, with the number reaching 86,132. That’s still 39 per cent lower than what it was a decade ago.

The bureau said auto theft costs Canadians about to $1 billion every year. This includes $542 million for insurers to fix or replace stolen vehicles, $250 million in police, health care and court system costs and millions more for correctional services.

Gast said car owners should avoid leaving a keyless entry fob in a vehicle or near the front door of their home, and should put them in a container or bag designed to block the signal.

Other tips are to install a tracking device that emits a signal to police or a monitoring station, never leaving a vehicle running when unattended, parking in a well lit area and using a steering wheel or brake pedal lock.

The Top 10

  1. 2007 Chevrolet/GMC Suburban/Yukon XL 1500 4DR 4WD
  2. 2015 Ford F350 SD 4WD
  3. 2008 BMW 328/335 4DR AWD
  4. 2011 Mitsubishi RVR 4DR 2WD
  5. 2014 Dodge Charger 4DR
  6. 2004 Ford F250 SD 4WD
  7. 2010 Kia Sportage 4DR 2WD
  8. 2011 Nissan XTerra 4DR 4WD
  9. 2014 Lexus IS 250/IS 350 4DR AWD
  10. 2014 Infiniti QX60 4DR AWD

Tech-savvy Thieves Don’t Need Your Keys

Insurance Bureau of Canada releases its 2019 Top 10 Stolen Vehicles list –

TORONTO, Dec. 3, 2019 /CNW/ – While the technology in our vehicles continues to evolve, so do sophisticated auto thieves who are using technology to bypass security systems and electronically gain access to Canadians’ vehicles. Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) is finding that technology is having a major impact on vehicle thefts, evident in its annual list, released today, of Canada’s most frequently stolen vehicles.

“Electronic auto theft is on the rise across the country as more vehicles are equipped with technology like keyless entry fobs,” said Bryan Gast, National Director of Investigative Services, IBC. “Regardless of how a vehicle is stolen, auto theft is a serious threat to Public Safety and continues to cost all Canadians.”

Auto theft is big business in Canada

Auto theft costs Canadians close to $1 billion every year. This includes $542 million for insurers to fix or replace stolen vehicles, $250 million in police, health care and court system costs and millions more for correctional services.

While some vehicles are stolen to commit another crime or to be used to go for a “joyride”, many others are stolen by organized crime groups to be sold to unsuspecting consumers in Canada, shipped abroad or stripped down for parts.

2019 Top 10 Stolen Vehicles

IBC’s Top 10 Stolen Vehicles list is compiled using data from IBC’s member companies across the country. This year’s list includes nine vehicles that don’t have ignition immobilizers, which are devices that can prevent thieves from hot-wiring a vehicle. The lack of an ignition immobilizer is the number one reason this series of Ford trucks continues to take up the majority of spots on the list.

  1. Ford 350SD AWD 2007
  2. Ford 350SD AWD 2006
  3. Ford 350SD AWD 2005
  4. Ford 350SD AWD 2004
  5. Ford 250SD AWD 2006
  6. Ford 350SD AWD 2003
  7. Lexus RX350/RX350L/RX450h/RX450hL 4DR AWD 2018
  8. Ford F250 SD 4WD 2005
  9. Ford F350 SD 4AWD 2002
  10. Honda Civic Si 2DR Coupe 1998

Tips to prevent auto theft  

Even with today’s tech-savvy thieves, there are a number of steps Canadians can take to help protect themselves from becoming a victim of auto theft.

  • Don’t leave a keyless entry fob in a vehicle or unprotected at the front entrance of your home. Thieves can use wireless transmitters to intercept the signal, giving them access to the vehicle. Consider storing fobs in a protective box or bag that blocks the signal.
  • Install an immobilizing device which prevents thieves from bypassing the ignition and hot-wiring a vehicle. This can include devices that require wireless ignition authentication or starter, ignition and fuel pump disablers.
  • Install a tracking device that emits a signal to police or a monitoring station if a vehicle is stolen.
  • Don’t make your vehicle an easy target:
    • Never leave a vehicle running when unattended.
    • Lock the doors and close all windows when parked.
    • Make sure to park in well-lit areas or in the garage.
    • Use a visible or audible device that shows thieves a vehicle is protected.
    • Consider using a deterrent like a steering wheel or brake pedal lock.
    • Don’t leave personal information, like insurance and ownership documents, in the glove box when parked.


IBC’s National Director of Investigative Services, Bryan Gast, is available for interviews and commentary on the list and how technology is changing how thieves steal vehicles in Canada. Mr. Gast comes to IBC after years of law enforcement service in Ontario.


About Insurance Bureau of Canada

Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) is the national industry association representing Canada’s private home, auto and business insurers. Its member companies make up 90% of the property and casualty (P&C) insurance market in Canada. For more than 50 years, IBC has worked with governments across the country to help make affordable home, auto and business insurance available for all Canadians. IBC supports the vision of consumers and governments trusting, valuing and supporting the private P&C insurance industry. It champions key issues and helps educate consumers on how best to protect their homes, cars, businesses and properties.

P&C insurance touches the lives of nearly every Canadian and plays a critical role in keeping businesses safe and the Canadian economy strong. It employs more than 128,000 Canadians, contributes $9.4 billion in taxes and has a total premium base of $59.6 billion.

For media releases and more information, visit IBC’s Media Centre at www.ibc.ca. Follow us on Twitter @InsuranceBureau or like us on Facebook. If you have a question about home, auto or business insurance, contact IBC’s Consumer Information Centre at 1-844-2ask-IBC.

SOURCE Insurance Bureau of Canada

DriveSafeBC: Is It Safe to Open Your Door?

Open Car DoorImagine the surprise of the motorist at a collision I once investigated. He parked at the side of the road, opened his door, and a passing car tried to tear it off! It’s a good thing he didn’t step out while he opened the door.

What went wrong here? The motorist didn’t look first, or didn’t see what was overtaking him. He probably felt safe in the fact that he had stopped close to the curb and was out of harm’s way.

In the case of a driver or front seat passenger, there is a mirror present to help see if anything is overtaking the vehicle before you open the door. A quick shoulder check is also a good preventative measure to turn into a habit.

For back seat passengers the rear roof pillar and lack of a mirror can make this task almost impossible.

The Dutch Reach is the best solution for all vehicle occupants use. Open the door with the hand that is on the opposite side of your body from it. This forces your body to rotate toward the door and allows you to look backward through the gap before the door opens very far. If something is there, hopefully there is enough room to avoid a crash.

Today’s highways are no longer designed so that traffic is always on the left side of a parked vehicle. Be cautious of cycle lanes that may be on the right side of parking areas.

Failing to look or see when you open your door poses a significant threat to cyclists often referred to as dooring or being doored. They must use the right hand edge of the roadway and are difficult to see because of their size. The cyclist that slams into an opening car door can be seriously injured.

Cycle lanes designed without a buffer do not eliminate the hazard.

Opening a door from the outside can be a problem as well. It is not uncommon to see a driver walk up to their vehicle and open the door to enter without giving any thought to overtaking traffic. Passing vehicles may be forced to move to the left or stop in order to avoid a collision.

Section 203 of the Motor Vehicle Act forbids opening the door of a motor vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so. Once a door on that side is open, it must not be left open for longer than is required to load or unload passengers.

The most stolen vehicle models in Manitoba


WINNIPEG — Vehicle theft may seem like a random act of crime, but the vehicle you drive can play a big part in the likelihood of it being stolen.

According to Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI), here are the most stolen cars in the province:

  1. Ford F150 (9.0 per cent of thefts)
  2. Chevrolet Silverado (5.0 per cent of thefts)
  3. GMC Sierra (4.7 per cent of thefts)
  4. Dodge Ram (4.4 per cent of thefts)
  5. Dodge Grand Caravan (4.1 per cent of thefts)

Four of the top five vehicles stolen in Manitoba are trucks.


It’s a cold morning in Manitoba; you run outside and start your car to warm it up. When you go back outside to leave for work, you see your car is missing.

It’s one of the most common scenarios where vehicle thieves steal cars according to MPI.

The insurance company estimates 90 per cent of car thefts are related to the use of keys. IE: Keys left in the ignition/hidden in the vehicle, or stolen from the owner.

Ninety-nine per cent of vehicles in Manitoba are equipped with an approved immobilizer, but the immobilizer is disengaged upon the use of keys, or key fobs.

The message: protect your keys.


The Insurance Bureau of Canada says car theft costs Canadians close to $1 billion annually.

Every year, insurance companies shell out over $540 million to replace or fix stolen vehicles.

Police, healthcare and court system costs tally $250 million.

More important to the average driver, there’s also the increased cost of insurance for owning one of the cars on the list.


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