64 years old Azerbaijani carjacker and 10 others facing 96 charges by York Regional Police

Police and an armoured vehicle are seen outside a home in an undated YRP image.

Police say they have charged 11 people with close to 100 offences after a months-long investigation into an alleged car theft ring operating in the Toronto area and other parts of southwestern Ontario.

The announcement by York Regional Police comes a day after the federal government said it would convene political leaders, law enforcement and auto industry executives next month to try to slow the rise in auto thefts in most major cities.

York Regional Police say a series of searches carried out in multiple cities over the last two months led them to recover 52 stolen vehicles.

They allege the suspects were using residential areas to store vehicles that had recently been stolen in York Region and other parts of southwestern Ontario.

Investigators say the group was targeting high-end vehicles, with planned destinations as far away as Azerbaijan and Georgia.

The suspects are facing 96 charges collectively, including motor vehicle theft, trafficking in property obtained by crime, and possession of an automobile master key.

Federal Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc announced the plan for a national summit to address auto theft on Sunday, saying it would be an opportunity to “take action to deal with something that’s increasingly becoming a concern in every part of the country.”

LeBlanc said he had discussed the issue with Ontario Premier Doug Ford in recent days

A spokesperson for the premier said Ford had spoken to the federal minister on the matter several times in the past few months.

In a letter sent to LeBlanc in the fall, Ontario’s Solicitor General, Michael Kerzner, said the province has seen a “staggering increase” in violent vehicle thefts over the last few years. Citing insurance industry group Équité Association, Kerzner said vehicle theft was up by over 48 per cent in Ontario year over year, and violent carjackings have increased by 78 per cent from 2021 to 2022.

The solicitor general asked Ottawa to increase the number of outbound inspections at ports, among other things.

Source: The Canadian Press