Hamilton (December 9, 2019) – The Hamilton police arrested four individuals as a result of a four-month investigation into an organized auto theft ring that exported stolen vehicles out of Canada. The investigation, named Project Seagull, revealed that local Hamilton auto sales businesses were involved in over 39 vehicle thefts with a value exceeding $1.6 million. On December 5, the police executed warrants on six businesses and three residences. Subsequently, Yehia Al-Jbouri (50), Zeyad Al-Khafaji (45), Amer Al-Ogaili (46), and Nahla Khayon (46) are now facing theft and fraud related charges. The investigation is still ongoing.
Hamilton police started Project Seagull in August 2019 when they became aware of the car thefts. The four-month investigation examined an organized auto theft ring that is operating out of Hamilton. According to a press release on December 9, the Insurance Bureau of Canada, Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council (OMVIC), and the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) supported the operation.
Organized auto theft ring operating our of Hamilton
The investigation revealed that the organized auto theft ring associated local Hamilton auto sales businesses, which were apparently involved in over 39 vehicle thefts exceeding a value of $1.6 million. Allegedly, their criminal activities entailed auto theft as well as exporting stolen vehicles out of Canada.
Police announced, that to date, they recovered seven stolen vehicles, which at the time of seizure were already bound for Iraq. Additionally, police believe more stolen vehicles have already been shipped.
Police seized 12 stolen goods and fraudulent documents while executing search warrants
On December 5, Hamilton authorities executed search warrants on six Hamilton businesses and three residences. According to the police, they searched Quanset Hut, Zara Auto Sales, AB Auto Recyclers and Dealer Exports, Mr. Temo Auto Repairs & Cars-X Auto Sales as well as two leased hangers at Stoney Creek Airport, and a gated storage compound in Hamilton. In the process, police seized 12 stolen cars, numerous vehicle parts, cash, gold jewelry, and other suspected stolen items as well as car keys and fobs. Furthermore, the operation captured numerous fraudulent Vehicle Identification Numbers, shipping documents, and stolen Mexican passports.
As a result, Yehia Al-Jbouri (50), Zeyad Al-Khafaji (45), Amer Al-Ogaili (46), and Nahla Khayon (46) were arrested and are now facing theft and fraud related charges. The former three suspects were released on their own recognizance and their first court appearance is January 6, 2020. The latter, Khayon, has been released and is scheduled for court on January 21, 2020.
The Insurance Bureau of Canada estimates auto thefts costing Canadians almost $1 billion yearly. In 2018, 9500 thefts and $162.5 million in industry payouts were conducted alone in Southern Ontario.
The investigation is ongoing and further charges may be pending. Anyone who believes to have information that could assist police with the investigation into this crime, please contact Detective Sergeant Andrea Torrie at 905-546-2991. To provide information anonymously call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or submit your anonymous tips online at www.crimestoppershamilton.com.