23 accused are facing 279 charges following an international auto theft investigation. On July 26, 2023, 14 search warrants were executed at locations in Windsor, Peel Region, York Region and Toronto. In total, 138 stolen vehicles have been recovered, worth more than $9 million.
Project FAIRFIELD was initiated by Windsor Police Service (WPS) in April 2022. The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Organized Crime Enforcement Bureau (OCEB) West joined as investigative partners in September 2022.
Evidence demonstrated that a sophisticated crime group was responsible for vehicles being stolen in Windsor and the surrounding area. This group was operating across multiple jurisdictions and vehicles were being exported to other countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Lebanon, the Republic of Columbia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In addition, the accused were also fraudulently modifying stolen vehicles’ identification numbers (VINs) to later sell them through private sales, in a process known as “re-vinning.”
On December 8, 2022, investigators stopped a known stolen, “re-vinned” vehicle on Highway 401 near Kingston. This traffic stop resulted in the seizure of illicit drugs, including 14,914 synthetic opioids tablets. The synthetic opioids tablets were pressed to appear as legitimate oxycodone (prescription) pills.
Additional items that were seized as a result of the investigation include:
· 138 stolen vehicles;
· 1,050 methamphetamine tablets;
· 4.9 pounds of cannabis;
· 1.1 pounds of cannabis concentrate;
· 320 grams of cocaine; and,
· $144,635 in Canadian currency and $26,698 United States currency.
In total, the illicit drugs seized as a result of Project FAIRFIELD have an estimated street value of $506,000.
A wide range of stolen vehicle makes and models have been recovered, including luxury vehicles, newer model pick-up trucks and SUVs.
“Auto theft is impacting communities across Ontario, and Project Fairfield has demonstrated that a collaborative approach is required to bring sophisticated criminal groups to justice. While this investigation pre-dates the development of the OPP-led Organized Crime Towing and Auto Theft Team, it certainly speaks to the importance of its mandate. Law enforcement agencies will continue to work with the CBSA and strategic partners, such as Équité Association, to combat auto theft and fraud in the automotive industry.” said, OPP Deputy Commissioner Marty Kearns
In addition to the OPP and WPS, other partners included the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), the London Police Service (LPS), the Peel Regional Police (PRP) and Équité Association.
Upon arrest, three of the accused were held in custody and the remaining accused were released. The accused are scheduled to appear at the Ontario Court of Justice in Windsor on various dates in August and September 2023.
Project FAIRFIELD has been an extensive operation, and police continue to identify and locate stolen and re-vinned vehicles. The investigation is ongoing.
“I commend the exceptional efforts and collaborative approach of all investigators and police partners who dismantled this sophisticated criminal network. This investigation is a perfect example of how law enforcement works together to fight organized crime and ensure the safety of residents in Windsor and other communities across the province.” said WPS Chief Jason Bellaire Members of the public should be cautious when purchasing a vehicle through a private sale. Buyers should ensure they retrieve as much information as possible on both the vehicle and the seller and perform due diligence in advance of providing any funds to the seller. Buyers should be suspicious of a private seller who will not provide identification or who insists on receiving cash as payment. Members of the public are also encouraged to review these tips to help prevent vehicle theft.