Project Yellowbird: Police show off stolen high-end goods worth millions

Toronto police showed off some of the millions of dollars worth of luxury goods on Friday that were recovered in Thursday's raids in the GTA and Niagara region.

Busted crime ring stole $5 million worth of luxury cars and other valuables

Toronto police show off millions of dollars worth of recovered stolen luxury goods 0:56

Toronto police showed off some of the millions of dollars worth of luxury goods on Friday that were recovered in Thursday's raids in the GTA and Niagara region. The raids led to the arrests of eight people in an alleged high-end goods crime ring. 

The investigation, dubbed Project Yellowbird after a Porsche Carrera stolen in December, resulted in the recovery of $5 million worth of stolen luxury cars and other valuables including jewelry, designer clothing and handbags, electronics, cigars and guns. 

Many of those items were on display at a press conference Friday.
Toronto police display millions of dollars worth of recovered luxury goods from Project Yellowbird. (CBC)

The goods were stolen from residences in high-end neighbourhoods. An estimated $800,000 worth of goods was stolen from a single home. 

Twenty-three stolen vehicles were recovered, which Blair said are worth an estimated $2.3 million as a whole. Makes such as Bentley, Porsche, BMW and Mercedes-Benz are among the recovered vehicles.

Police described the robberies as "bold."

"The homeowner came home, found his garage open, one of his cars was missing," said Toronto Police Supt. Scott Gilbert. "He went in, found his house had been broken into. While he was on the phone calling the police, the suspects were around the corner and stole his other car from the driveway. The one he had just pulled up in." 

Police also released the names of the nine suspects in custody. Eight of them were arrested and one turned himself in. 

All nine appeared in court for a bail hearing Friday. They are facing more than 150 charges, and additional charges are likely. 
Toronto police say they have recovered 23 high-end vehicles, including this Mercedes-Benz, through a months-long investigation they have dubbed Project Yellowbird. (Toronto Police Service)

The suspects are:

  • Mykhaylo Antonov, 28,
  • Piotr Buczel, 38,
  • Arkadiusz Czeranowski, 38,
  • Krzysztof Harasiuk, 44,
  • Maciej Niezurawski, 46,
  • Oskar Boczkowski, 35,
  • Tania Hernandez-lopez, 29,
  • Magdelena Lejawa, 42,
  • Milena Zelenovich, 36.

The investigation involved officers from several Ontario jurisdictions.

'We've turned off a pipeline'

Chief Bill Blair said the successful conclusion of the operation had made a very significant dent in the ability of the gang to continue victimizing the people of Toronto.

"We've turned off a pipeline, a pipeline that was victimizing people in the city and creating a very unsafe situation," he said.

Four of the stolen cars, including the Porsche, were located as they arrived in Europe with the help of the Canada Border Services Agency and are now on their way back home, police said.
Toronto police say that officers executed a series of warrants across the Greater Toronto Area and elsewhere in the early hours of Aug. 28, 2014, as part of Project Yellowbird. The photo above was taken in Oakville, Ont. (Tony Smyth/CBC)

Several luxury vehicles reported stolen in the past few months, however, have yet to be recovered, said Gilbert.

Blair estimated that about 8,000 people are victimized by break-ins in Toronto every year. In addition to that. some 34,000 vehicles are stolen, but the vast majority of them are quickly recovered.

"With the advent of new immobilizer technology for high-end vehicles, what we've seen is a new crime emerging, a crime where criminal organizations and criminal gangs are involved in breaking into people's houses in order to obtain the keys for those vehicles so that they might be stolen," Blair said.

Most of the stolen high-end vehicles are shipped mainly to eastern Europe where, Blair said, they are sold for an "extraordinary profit."

With files from The Canadian Press