A 58-year-old Ottawa man is being accused of privately selling local luxury vehicles which have been stolen and had their vin numbers changed.
In August of 2018, the Ottawa Police Service charged four Montreal-area men in relation to vehicle thefts in the capital region, which it says happened between May and August of 2018.
Ottawa police say there were about 50 vehicles stolen in Ottawa over those four months, worth about $2.5-million in total. Several vehicles recovered were located at or around the Port of Montreal and were destined for export.
On February 12, officers laid additional charges against two of the men. Mathieu Authier, 26, was charged with 105 offences in connection with 19 of the motor vehicle thefts. Eric Robert-Ferreira, 25, was charged with 35 offences in connection with 16 thefts. Both men are from the Montreal area.
Criminal investigators from the OPS' Central and East Divisions then began "Project Ravin" in April of this year, to further investigate the activities and role of an Ottawa man in placing orders for specific vehicle models/years with car thieves from the Montreal area.
As a result of the project, Jean 'Mario' Belleus was charged on Saturday, May 11, with:
- Possess stolen property (2 counts)
- Utter forged document (2 counts)
- Launder proceeds of crime over $5,000 (2 counts)
- Possess B&E tool
- Remove vehicle identification number (2 counts)
- Obtain by false pretense over $5,000
He will appear in court on Tuesday.
"We have a cross directorate investigative approach with external policing partners, the Insurance Bureau of Canada and the automotive industry to target the criminality specific to stolen vehicles and we are pleased with the results and success to date of Project Ravin," said Ottawa Police Inspector Tim Hodgins, with Criminal Investigations. "We wish to remind the public that Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council (OMVIC) dealers guarantee their vehicle purchase to consumers and protect them from purchasing a re-vinned vehicle."
To date, 19 vehicles, primarily newer model luxury Toyota/Lexus SUV's, have been linked to this project. Subsequent examination of the vehicles revealed that they originated from motor vehicle thefts predominantly in Ottawa/Montreal area and other jurisdictions including Toronto. The estimated theft/fraud cost is approx. $1.4-million, of which approx. $835,000 has been recovered.
Investigators found that some vehicles had been transferred to multiple owners and while some people who purchased vehicles from Belleus are victims; others may be facing criminal charges such as Possession of stolen property, Filing a false police report and Fraud (including insurance frauds).
The Ottawa Police investigative team continues to identify and recover stolen "re-vinned" vehicles sold in Ottawa and asking Ottawa residents who purchased a vehicle from Belleus to contact Central Criminal Investigations Detective Doug Belanger at firstname.lastname@example.org or 613-236-1222 ext. 8724 or East Criminal Investigations Detective Stephen Love at email@example.com or 613-236-1222, ext. 6240.
Anonymous tips can be submitted by calling Crime Stoppers toll-free at 1-800-222-8477 or at crimestoppers.ca.