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GTA: Project Yellowbird busts Slavic-immigrant run high-end goods crime ring

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

CBC News Posted: Aug 29, 2014 6:18 PM ET Last Updated: Aug 29, 2014 7:00 PM ET

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.

Project YellowbirdToronto 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.

Mercedes recovered during Project YellowbirdToronto 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)

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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.

(…)

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 IN 2002, Maciej Niezurawski, one of the city’s most accomplished car thieves, lived in a Mississauga apartment with his wife and three-year-old daughter. He is over six feet tall, pushing 220 pounds, dresses casually–he’s a fan of the cotton track pant–and, at the time, had blond highlights in his spiky brown hair. He was 39 years old and drove a yellow Dodge Viper with vanity plate “VIPERRRR.”

On a warm September night, he did what he had done dozens of times before. He dressed himself in black from head to toe and walked out of his apartment a few minutes before midnight, leaving his family behind. He drove to the local Tim Hortons at Mavis Road and Central Parkway West and picked up his 24-year-old accomplice and lover. Together, they headed toward a house on Napa Hill Court, near Yonge and Steeles. While the owners of the house, Aksana and Gregory Miakouchkina, lay fast asleep, Niezurawski snuck around back and gingerly opened the unlocked sliding glass door. Inside, he quietly snatched the car keys and purse, off the kitchen table, then headed out and slipped into the Miakouchkinas’ $75,000 silver BMW X5 SUV, which was parked in the, driveway. With his girlfriend following behind, Niezurawski drove off to Stately Way, a decidedly unstately street of townhouses in Markham, and parked the hot car at a designated drop-off spot.

For the average car thief, this would be a full night’s work. But Niezurawski was both talented and ambitious. At about 1:30 a.m., he and his accomplice headed south to Princess Avenue, near Bayview and Sheppard, where Raj and Virender Bagga were asleep in bed. Virender, then 66, was a social worker until a stroke left him wheelchair-bound and incapacitated. His wife, Raj, who was then 58, had returned home late from a United Way meeting–she volunteers as a fundraiser on the city’s South Asian Committee–and parked her new $60,000 grey Acura MDX in the driveway. Their daughter, Priya, who lived at home, was in Seattle that week, visiting her brother, Bob. Raj had left her purse in the family room before heading up to bed at 11 p.m. Niezurawski walked into the Baggas’ back garden through an open iron gate, took the screen off their patio window, broke the glass and crept into the family room. He grabbed the purse and took off through the back door. Outside, he removed the keys, two credit cards and $700 in cash, tossed the purse onto the grass, slid into the car and drove past his girlfriend, who was parked a few blocks away. The two of them headed to nearby Palomino Crescent to dump the car, then drove off together. It had been a good night: two cars stolen without a hitch, everything according to plan. …

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By: Precious Yutangco Staff Reporter, Published on Wed Oct 01 2008

Halton Region police believe a man they arrested for allegedly stealing a BMW is connected to an organized auto theft ring.

On Sunday, police used a Boomerang Tracking Device to locate a 2006 BMW that had been stolen from Hamilton.

They found the car in a parking lot in the area of Prince William Dr. and Amelia Court, near Burloak Dr. and Hwy. 403 in Burlington. Police decided to start surveillance before seizing the stolen property.

Around 2 p.m. on Monday, police spotted a man getting into the car.

After a foot pursuit involving a canine unit, the suspect was arrested.

Arkadiusz Czeranowski, 33, of Burlington, has been charged with possession of stolen property over $5,000 and breach of probation.

The car is estimated to be worth over $150,000.

Police are continuing to investigate and are asking anyone with information to call them at 905-825-4777 x2355. Crime Stoppers accepts anonymous tips at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

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