02/04/2004

Largest Merchandise Seizure in Ontario History culminates 6-year Investigation

The Associated Press

MISSISSAUGA, Ontario, Canada (AP) -- A six-year investigation involving stolen computers, jewelry and clothing shipped out of Toronto's Pearson International Airport has culminated in what police are calling the largest proceeds-of-crime bust in Ontario history.

Total value of the merchandise seized in the bust over the past three years is $3.5 million, Peel Regional Police said Wednesday at one of their detachments in this city west of Toronto.

Calling the scope of the investigation "massive," Det. Steve Rowland, who investigated the initial airport thefts, outlined a criminal venture that started out small, then ballooned.

"It started out as someone just taking the opportunity at theft, and then just rose to pure greed," he said.

"These people had been getting away with it for such a long time that they were comfortable."

Comfortable until police began investigating cargo thefts at Pearson in 1997. That probe led to a joint effort involving numerous southern Ontario police services.

Police said the crime ring was orchestrated by "internal employees" at the airport, but didn't provide many other details.

Police displayed mountains of computers, video cameras and other high-end merchandise, as well as stacks of money, that have been seized since 2001.

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