Calgary police crack vehicle theft ring after year-long investigation

After a year-long investigation into vehicle cloning in Calgary, police have issued arrest warrants for four people.

In January, police executed a search warrant at Auto Detailing Specialists, located at 316 36th Ave. N.E., where they seized six stolen vehicles worth $730,000 and 119 grams of methamphetamine worth $10,000.

Sgt. Graeme Smiley of the Calgary police district support unit said it was a significant auto-theft bust.

“This is yet another example of how complex auto theft fraud investigations can be,” said Smiley. “These offenders took significant steps to evade detection and disguise stolen vehicles, which resulted in an extensive amount of evidence that required review.”

Investigators said the suspects used fake identification and bank cards to buy vehicles, or stole keys during test drives and returned to the dealership at a later date to complete the theft.

Vehicles were then sold under new vehicle identification numbers, likely through second-hand sellers like Kijiji, or to other criminals.

Smiley said the auto shop, which blends easily into its surroundings, was a cover for criminal activity and no retail operation was in place.

Calgary police spent months between October and January collecting evidence to move forward with a search warrant after finding similarities to investigations underway by their Edmonton counterparts.

Following the seizure, Smiley said police evaluated the evidence and were then able to lay charges.

“It’s a lot of time-consuming work, so for example reviewing closed-circuit television footage or reviewing very lengthy banking information. These are very time-consuming, detail-oriented tasks for our investigators,” he said.

It’s estimated $1.73-million worth of stolen or cloned vehicles were sold for about $575,000 in cash.

Sherwin Hadji-Latiph Mendoza, 38, of Edmonton and three Calgary residents — Kathleen Marie Jackson, 32, Jason Joseph Buckley, 46 and Ashley Marie Myshrall, 33 — are all facing theft and trafficking charges.

Smiley said vehicle theft in Alberta is a significant issue.

“These thefts are happening on a daily basis,” he said, adding people should stay alert, always lock their vehicles, close their garages and never leave their keys in the vehicle.

Mendoza is described as five-foot-six, 200 pounds with a heavy build, black hair and brown eyes. Jackson is described as five-foot-two, 140 pounds with blonde hair and green eyes. Buckley is described as six-foot-one, 190 pounds with a slim build, brown hair and blue eyes and Myshrall is described as five-foot-two, 110 pounds with a medium build, blonde hair and brown eyes.

Police are asking anyone with information to contact to call 403-266-1234. The public can also submit tips anonymously through Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or online at www.calgarycrimestoppers.org

Author: alsmith@postmedia.com

Source: https://calgarysun.com/news/local-news/calgary-police-crack-vehicle-theft-ring-based-in-auto-detailing-shop