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Maple Leaf Motoring: Six arrested in C$7 million cargo crime spree near Toronto (with video)

Group accused of hijacking of truck with 8,500 mobile devices, stealing three commercial vehicles and attempting warehouse robberies in an unusually well-planned and brutal case of cargo theft in Canada.

An image captured from surveillance video of an attempted armed cargo theft in Mississauga, Ontario, in August. Photo: Peel Regional Police

Maple Leaf Motoring is a weekly rundown of developments in the world of Canadian transportation. This week: a brazen freight crime spree; Canada’s transport sector adds jobs; and a British Columbia trucking company makes an acquisition. 

Six men face 63 charges in connection with a series of cargo crimes near Toronto, including the hijacking of a truckload of nearly C$7 million of cell phones and tablets and the theft of three commercial vehicles.

Peel Regional Police, based in the Toronto-area freight hub of Mississauga, announced the arrests on October 9. The crimes appeared to have been unusually well-planned and brutal, even as Canada contends with an uptick in cargo theft

“In my career, I have not come across anything like this,” said Peel police Constable Akhil Mooken.

The first crime linked to the six suspects took place on March 13, after a car cut off a delivery truck in Brampton, Ontario. Two men from the car forced themselves into the cab of the truck, and then held the driver at gunpoint, said Peel police acting detective Steve Sherwin.

About 8,500 phones and tablets destined for stores in the Toronto area to were another truck.

A group with some of the same people as the hijacking resurfaced on July 28, and attempted to rob a secure cargo facility in Mississauga. Police said they assaulted and held a security guard at gunpoint.

They aborted the heist after seeing security cameras and fled. The terrifying ordeal plays out on a short clip of the incident released by police.

The group involved in the two incidents then stole three commercial vehicles, including two with trailers attached, at a truck yard in Mississauga on August 25, police said.

Police arrested four of the suspects later that night as they drove to commit another robbery at a warehouse in Mississauga. Officers recovered a loaded Smith & Wesson handgun, zip ties and bear spray.

The remaining two suspects were arrested in September. 

The manufacturer remotely deactivated the phones and tablets after the March theft, and some of the devices have been recovered. 

Life-long “emotional damage and truama’ for victims

Police recovered some of the phones and tablets stolen in the March 2019 robbery. Photo: Peel Regional Police

Investigators suspect that the six men may have been involved in crimes going back to 2018, and have connections in eastern and western Canada. 

“They’re reaching out to partners across North America to see if they’ve had anything similar,” Mooken said.

Police believe the crimes were well-planned, but would not detail how they learned of the valuable cargo. 

Mooken advised anyone involved in the transport of high-value cargo to minimize number of people with knowledge of the details. 

“Any time there is a load a significant value, it becomes well known, and it certainly becomes a target for hijacking,“ Mooken said. “The more restricted that information is the better.”

While the value of the electronics shipment was large, Mooken said the security guard and truck driver from the incidents bore the brunt of the crimes.

“The emotional damage and trauma is going to be life-long,” Mooken said. 

More information about the case including the names and photos of the suspects can be found on the Peel Police website. 

Transport payrolls rise in September jobs data

Canada’s transportation and warehousing sector added 5,300 jobs in September as employment increased across the board in Canada. 

Statistics Canada reported the gains in its monthly Labor Force Survey on October 11. Transportation and warehousing accounted for about 10% of the 53,000.

Employment in the transport sector, which is overrepresented by trucking, increased by 0.5% during the month. The gains largely offset a 0.6% decline in August. 

Munden Ventures acquires Rapid Cool’s transport division

Munden Ventures, a British Columbia trucking company, has acquired the transport service division of Rapid Cool. 

Munden, which specializes in log transport, said it was taking over Rapid Cool’s reefer, truck heating, cooling and power unit business.

Munden’s owner, Greg Munden, announced the purchase on Facebook on September 30. “We welcome all of Rapid Cool’s customers, Munden wrote.

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Nate Tabak

Nate Tabak is a Toronto-based journalist and producer who covers cybersecurity and cross-border trucking and logistics for FreightWaves. He spent seven years reporting stories in the Balkans and Eastern Europe as a reporter, producer and editor based in Kosovo. He previously worked at newspapers in the San Francisco Bay Area, including the San Jose Mercury News. He graduated from UC Berkeley, where he studied the history of American policing. Contact Nate at [email protected]