Police Seize $3 Million in Stolen Classic Cars Following Tip in Ontario

Investigation into Lambton County vehicle thefts leads to major bust of stolen vehicles, including classic cars, worth over $3 million in eastern Ontario.

A tip from a Canadian resident about stolen vehicles has led to a significant police operation, resulting in the seizure of more than $3 million worth of stolen cars, including valuable classic vehicles, in Stirling, Ontario. The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) announced the successful recovery on Thursday, following a six-month investigation.

The case began in late 2023 when a Lambton County resident reported multiple vehicles stolen. The investigation culminated on May 14, when police executed a search warrant on a property in Stirling, a community north of Belleville. The operation led to the recovery of 45 vehicles, highlighting the scale of the theft ring.

Among the seized vehicles were 16 that the provincial asset forfeiture unit identified as proceeds of crime, according to police. Robert Bradshaw, 54, and Gary Leblanc, 55, both of Stirling, have been charged with motor vehicle theft over $5,000, fraud over $5,000, using forged documents, and conspiracy to commit an indictable offense. Leblanc faces additional charges, including uttering threats.

Leblanc has a previous criminal record, facing charges from a human trafficking investigation involving a minor in Hamilton. Arrested in July, he is due in court on May 30 for a trial date setting. Both suspects have been released on bail and are scheduled to appear in court in Belleville on June 27.

OPP spokesperson Wade noted the difficulty in tracking classic cars compared to modern vehicles, as they lack advanced identification methods. “Classic cars are a small fraction of the 30,000 vehicles stolen annually in Ontario, but they are valuable and harder to track due to fewer identification tools,” Wade explained.

The recovered vehicles will be returned to their rightful owners, which could include insurance companies if claims have already been paid out. This seizure comes amid a broader spike in auto thefts across Canada, with 90,000 vehicles stolen annually, costing insurers and taxpayers approximately $1 billion, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

Canada has become a hotspot for auto theft, partly due to its large supply of high-end SUVs. Organized crime groups are increasingly involved, often shipping stolen vehicles overseas for resale in regions such as the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. Earlier this year, police in Montreal seized 598 vehicles stolen from Ontario and Quebec from shipping containers, demonstrating the scale of the problem.

The integration of Canada’s stolen vehicle registration database with Interpol’s has led to the detection of more than 1,500 stolen vehicles worldwide since February. Interpol Secretary General Jürgen Stock highlighted the broader implications of vehicle theft, noting that stolen cars are used in various criminal activities, from drug trafficking to terrorism.

While the OPP declined to confirm an organized crime link in the Stirling case, Wade acknowledged the potential involvement, given the large-scale nature of the operation. “Anytime there’s a large-scale investigation, I would be shocked if there’s not an organized crime element to it,” he said.

The ongoing investigation and upcoming court process will aim to uncover the full extent of the criminal network behind these thefts, ensuring that those responsible are brought to justice.

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