Nearly $10 million in stolen trucks, cargo recovered in bust of major theft ring in Mississauga, Brampton and GTA

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Published July 19, 2023 at 11:33 am

Peel Regional Police Deputy Chief Nick Milinovich speaks to the media about Project Big Rig.

Nearly $10 million in stolen transport trucks and cargo have been recovered and 15 people charged after police busted a major theft ring operating in Mississauga, Brampton and across the GTA.

The dismantling of the “prolific criminal theft ring” by a joint-forces operation dubbed Project Big Rig has taken “millions of dollars” out of the hands of organized crime, Peel Regional Police Deputy Chief Nick Milinovich told the media at a press conference this morning (July 19) at police headquarters in Mississauga.

He said proceeds from the $6.99 million in recovered stolen cargo and $2.25 million in 28 stolen tractor trailers ($9.24 million total) would have quickly been directed to gang activity and the purchase of guns and drugs in Peel and across the GTA had cops not busted the theft ring, which resulted in 73 charges against the 15 people arrested.

The stolen cargo included a wide array of random items, from snowmobiles to ATVs and food, police said. Those goods were then to be sold to, in many cases, outfits such as flea markets and other unsuspecting buyers.

Six of those arrested are from Brampton while one is from Mississauga, two are from Breslau, near Waterloo, and another is from North York.

The remaining five suspects are of no fixed address, police say, adding a number of those arrested are believed to be repeat offenders.

Police executed search warrants at six locations across the GTA in addition to the arrests.

Police believe they’ve arrested all members of the suspected theft ring, which was first identified by Peel cops last December.

In March of this year, Peel police formed the joint-forces task squad and launched Project Big Rig, which also included officers from Toronto, York and Halton police forces in addition to the OPP.

Lead investigator Det. Mark Haywood, of Peel’s Commercial and Auto Crime Unit, said trucks and their cargo were targeted in Mississauga, Brampton and across the GTA.

In some cases, parked trucks were stolen from truck stops and at the roadside while drivers had left the vehicles unattended.

In other cases, Haywood added, those responsible for the thefts cut wire fencing to access facilities before driving the trucks and their cargo back through the large opening in the fence.

Haywood didn’t want to reveal specific police techniques that led to the massive bust, saying only that “a lot of surveillance was involved.”

He added that some 90 per cent of the movement of goods in Ontario goes through Peel and, subsequently, Mississauga and Brampton are a hub that’s targeted by organized crime groups.

Roughly $1.8 billion worth of goods passes through Peel daily, Haywood noted.

Milinovich noted that truck and cargo thefts have been on the rise in Peel and across the GTA in the last two years or so.

He added it’s “not a victimless crime,” saying cargo thefts inflict “serious financial harm” and disrupt the movement of goods.

Such crime also increases insurance costs, with those costs then passed on to consumers while businesses also feel the pinch.

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