By on December 19, 2019

2017 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro - Image: Toyota

A Grinch-like presence that haunted the driveways and dealerships of Eastern and Southern Ontario for much of the year has finally met the long arm of the law. Sadly for owners, a great number of mostly Toyota-built vehicles have already found new homes on the other side of the Atlantic.

Earlier this week, officials from the Ontario Provincial Police, Canadian Border Services Agency, and the police forces of Montreal, Laval, Ottawa, York Region, and Toronto announced the results of Project Shildon: a multi-agency effort to crack the nighttime thefts of various high-margin Toyota and Lexus vehicles. The Ford F-150 was also a popular choice.

Arrested in the Dec. 10 sweep were 20 Montreal-area suspects who allegedly combed Ontario cities and towns within a reasonable driving distance from Montreal, looking for vehicles ripe for the taking. Focusing especially on Lexus NX and RX crossovers, as well as the Toyota Toyota, Highlander, and always appealing 4Runner, the ring organized into two gangs: one targeting private residences, the other for dealerships.

Police recovered 97 stolen vehicles in the raids, but 400 additional swiped vehicles had already left the country on container ships bound for West Africa and the Middle East. Following the thefts, vehicles were driven to the Port of Montreal for loading.

2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro grey - Image: Toyota

The thieves utilized the magic of computer applications, a vehicle’s diagnostics port, and home-made key fob signals to reprogram the vehicle into believing the owner’s key fob was inside the car. First, the vehicles had to be broken into the old-fashioned way. Police claim the thefts were not initiated through “relay theft”, which is a common way of stealing Toyota and Lexus vehicles.

Project Shildon kicked off in June after cops noticed a spike in thefts. While the bust, which also turned up meth and various other drugs, did keep dozens of vehicles on the right side of the ocean, the authorities claim there’s nothing they can do for the hundreds of owners whose vehicles made a boat trip overseas.

Anyone who knows anything about vehicles knows that certain Toyota and Lexus products are revered in select overseas countries, fetching big dollars when they arrive.

[Source: CBC, Postmedia] [Images: Toyota]

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