Project Taurus leads to recovery of high-end vehicles and arrests
In May 2021, Toronto Police Hold Up Squad launched Project Taurus after a series of carjackings in Toronto and York Region.
A total of 28 high-end vehicles were targeted and attempts were made to transport them overseas.
Working with other police services and Canada Border Services, seven arrests were made and 19 vehicles have been recovered.
Two replica firearms and knives along with $40,000 were also seized during the investigation.
At a press conference at police headquarters on February 1, Inspector Richard Harris of the Hold Up Squad said vehicles were targetted specifically along the Yonge St. corridor between Sheppard and Finch Aves. E.
“Theinvestigation has revealed the somewhat sophisticated group of individuals targeted high-end motor vehicles which included Lamborghinis, McLaren, Rolls Royce, Bentleys, Porsche and Mercedes Benz models that were destined for out-of-province locations and overseas,” he said. “The motive was for profit.”
The Hold-Up Squad collaborated with the York Regional Police Hold Up and Auto Squads, Canada Border Services Agency, Levalle Police Service and the Toronto Police Mobile Support Services Intelligence Services, Gun and Gang Task Force, Central North Major Crime Unit along with 32 and 43 Divisions.
Harris said the crew utilized various techniques during the commission of these robberies, including distraction methods.
“There were intentional vehicle contact with the unsuspecting victim(s) and on occasion, the suspects would blitz or swarm unsuspecting victims as they exited or entered their vehicles,” he said.
Weapons used during the commission of the robberies included handguns, knives and a Taser. Often, victims were physically removed from their vehicles and the keys taken.
“The suspects would leave in the stolen auto and be followed in tandem with another vehicle,” Harris noted. “Shortly after the vehicles were stolen, they were taken to locations where the GPS capability was disabled or removed from the vehicles. The Investigation has revealed the vehicles were next sent east of the city with the intention of being shipped overseas. With the assistance of GPS technology and our partners at Canada Border Services Agency, many of the vehicles were recovered a short time after being stolen.”
Harris said two vehicles were recovered in Malta, three were found at a Montreal port and one was at a Halifax port bound for the United Arab Emirates.
During the early morning hours of January 7 at approximately 2:30 AM, a victim was operating a red Lamborghini and had just parked his vehicle.
Harris said two male suspects, who had their identities concealed, approached him.
“One suspect brandished a knife and it was determined that they exited a vehicle driven by a third suspect,” he pointed out. “Demands were made for the victim’s keys and cellphone. The victim complied and the suspects stole the Lamborghini and fled the area. The suspect vehicle they arrived in also fled in tandem.”
Attending officers from 32 division tracked the stolen vehicle using GPS technology to an area in York Region.
“With great assistance, the York Regional Police Service was notified and with the use of their helicopter were able to provide air support, locate the suspects in the stolen vehicle and began conducting surveillance,” said Harris. “Once the Lamborghini reached the area of Jane Street and Weston Road in Toronto, it was abandoned apparently due to the large police presence.”
The alleged driver exited the vehicle quickly and entered into a suspect vehicle which ultimately drove to the area of Anson Drive and Torbram Rd. in Mississauga.
“With the assistance of both uniformed members of the Toronto Police Service and members of the Emergency Task Force, four accused were taken into custody,” Harris said. “Another person was arrested during a search warrant and two men were arrested during an earlier stage of the investigation.”
Inspector Shannon Dawson spoke about the impact of Project Taurus on 32 Division.
She said dozens of residents were victimized.
“They had their cars taken from their homes and in some cases they were followed from their homes and attacked elsewhere,” said Dawson. “In all of these cases, our community members were assaulted and their cars taken by force. In many cases, our investigators received good information from victims, including security camera footage that helped further this investigation.”
In the last few months, the city has experienced a surge in auto thefts.
“These incidents have numbered in the hundreds and those responsible have used a variety of tactics to steal almost every type of vehicle, regardless of security features,” said S/Supt. Lauren Pogue of Detective Operations. “We have seen warm-up thefts in the winter months, vehicles taken after security fobs were cloned from inside houses, and in some cases – like in this project – violent carjackings that used weapons and physical force to separate victims from their vehicles.”
Pogue said that in many cases, some of the perpetrators have operated across divisional and Greater Toronto Area borders in a highly sophisticated way.
“While in this case there are no distinct ties to local gang activity, it is clear they were only one part of a complex organization,” she pointed out. “These two common factors have meant that we as a police service must adjust our enforcement response.”
Pogue noted that the recreation of an Organized Crime Investigative Support team will allow for a Service-wide focus on major crime activity, including auto thefts, where the investigative capacity exceeds the resources of local divisions.
“We have worked closely with other police services on this case,” she said. “We will continue to join together to share resources and intelligence in an effort to combat this multi-jurisdiction criminal activity.”
Pogue thanked York Regional Police, Laval Police Service and Canada Border Services Agency for their assistance during Project Taurus.
She also acknowledged Councillor Mike Colle who has consistently called for governments support from all levels.
Auto thefts, added Pogue, affect victims in a very traumatic way.
“Whether the suspects use physical force or not, the vulnerability someone feels after having their vehicle stolen right from the security of their garage or driveway cannot be understated,” she added.
Pogue said there was a 20 per cent increase in auto thefts between 2019-2021.
The Project Taurus investigation has led to the arrests of brothers Qlirim and Adhurim Halimi, Petar Kunic, Toma Qasha, Albin Gashi, Bradley French and Rikardo Luzi. Their ages range from 20 to 23.
A Canada-wide warrant has been issued for 20-year-old Tre Seaton of Toronto.
The investigation is ongoing.