Peel Regional Police say they have arrested 16 suspects and issued arrest warrants for another 10 individuals in connection with an auto theft investigation carried out by a “highly orchestrated criminal operation.”

During a news conference on Monday morning, Peel police confirmed that the investigation, dubbed Project Odyssey, began in October 2023 and involved hundreds of stolen vehicles that were destined for foreign markets.

Of the 26 suspects wanted in connection with the investigation, police said, 14 were out on a form of release or bail for “auto theft related offences.” A total of 322 charges have been laid so far, police added. 

“This has been Peel Regional Police’s most significant auto theft investigation to date,” Peel Regional Police Chief Nishan Duraiappah told reporters on Monday.

Police said 369 stolen vehicles, including two transport trucks, were seized as part of the investigation. The recovered vehicles have a combined value of $33.2 million, according to police.

Police said 255 vehicles were recovered in Peel Region and 114 others were recovered at the Port of Montreal.

Det. Greg O’Connor told reporters that investigators identified a local trucking company that was allegedly facilitating the shipment of stolen vehicles to the Port of Montreal.

“A local company and trucking yard were identified within the region of Peel and a family was identified who was responsible for facilitating and loading the transportation of motor-vehicles,” O’Connor said Monday.

He said that the stolen vehicles were taken to local “intermodal hubs” within the GTA and were transported along the 401 corridor to the Port of Montreal. The vehicles, he added, were intended to be exported to ports in the United Arab Emirates and Oman.

“Based on the evidence, we believe the trucking company owners, workers, and operators were fully aware and complicit in the shipping of these stolen vehicles,” O’Connor said.

“Investigators also identified several individuals involved in the theft and transport of stolen vehicles to the yard from local areas within the Greater Toronto Area.”

Some of the vehicles, police said, were stolen during violent carjackings.

“You’ve heard today that more than half of the people arrested in this investigation were already on some form of prior release for auto theft. Of the people that we arrested, charged, and held for bail, all of them are already out on release and back out in the communities in which they live,” Deputy Chief Nick Milinovich said at Monday’s news conference.

“We continue to see a constant flow of cars destined for our ports.”

He added that last year alone, more than 3,000 stolen cars were recovered in Peel Region.

“We are currently charging and arresting more people than we ever have and we are going to continue that trend. We are recovering record amounts of stolen cars,” he said.

“That is being done in response to what is an obvious community concern. We hear our community. We are going to continue doing that until the people that are involved in it and responsible for it understand a very simple message. Peel is not the place to come and steal cars.”