Toronto police arrested seven people and laid just over 70 charges in an ongoing auto theft investigation that allegedly involved ServiceOntario employees conspiring with the suspects.
Police said Project Safari was initiated in Feb. 2023 to “identify and arrest members of a suspected auto theft ring responsible for numerous motor vehicle thefts throughout the city.”
The investigation revealed that several suspects were conspiring with ServiceOntario employees, who allegedly trafficked driving and vehicle data from Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation database.
Police determined that ServiceOntario employees would provide suspects with vehicle and driver information, including addresses. The suspects would then steal vehicles.
Employees at ServiceOntario would also supply the accused with fraudulent vehicle registrations and vehicle identification numbers (VIN). It’s alleged suspects would place the fraudulent VIN on the stolen vehicle – referred to as re-vining – linked to the fraudulent registration to appear legitimate.
Toronto police said the vehicles were sold domestically to unsuspecting buyers as used vehicles or were used to commit other crimes.
ServiceOntario locations part of search warrants
Project Safari further revealed that between July 2023 and Oct. 2023, as many as 25 search warrants were executed on residences, commercial garages, ServiceOntario branches and vehicles.
Several stolen and “re-vinned” vehicles were located, including equipment, tools and electronics utilized by the suspects to facilitate auto thefts.
Police noted that search warrants also revealed that the number of people who had their data trafficked was in the hundreds.
In all, over $1.5 million worth of proceeds of crime were seized by investigators, including hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and several luxury vehicles.
7 arrested, Toronto man faces 12 counts of tampering with VINs
On Wednesday, police identified seven people charged as part of the investigation.
Keerthan Mangaleswaran, 29, of Toronto, faces several offences, including 12 counts of tampering with VINs, seven counts of possession of property obtained by crime exceeding $5,000 and four counts of obstructing a police officer, among other charges.
Mangaleswaran was expected to appear in court on Sept. 22, 2023.
A Toronto man and woman were also charged as part of the investigation. Gobi Yogarajah, 25, and Milosha Ariyaratnam, 29, face similar charges. They include possession of property obtained by crime over $5,000.
Ariyaratnam faces 11 counts of tampering with VINs, while Yogarajah was charged with purchasing an automobile master key, possession of break-and-enter instrument and tampering with a VIN. Both were expected to appear in court on separate dates.
Other suspects identified
- Kajan Jokanajakam, 32, of Oshawa (obstructing justice)
- Howard Lee, 25, of Markham (fraud and other related offences)
- Doneika Jackson, 38, of Toronto (identify information trafficking and breach of trust)
- Andrea Fernandes, 30, of Vaughan (identify information trafficking and breach of trust)