Project Tyga and a related YRPS investigation dubbed Project Cayenne, identified 19 carjackings and attempted carjackings in Toronto, York and Peel regions.
At a news conference at police headquarters on May 3, Hold Up Inspector Richard Harris said 17 vehicles have been recovered – over $1 million in vehicles. Three of them were found abandoned in Toronto and two of the vehicles were found burnt out.
“The suspects used extreme violence towards the victims while committing these acts with the sole intention of stealing their vehicles for profit,” noted Harris. “They focused on obtaining high-end SUVs and it is believed these vehicles were being obtained for sale to illicit businesses throughout the GTA or transported overseas.”
Harris said the investigation revealed the suspects travelled on major GTA highways in stolen vehicles to identify a particular high-end vehicle. It is alleged they would then follow the vehicles to an intersection or, in some cases, the victim’s residence.
“The suspects would wait for the victim to stop the vehicle before approaching and demanding they exit,” Harris said. “In most incidents, the victims were compliant. However, they would be subjected to unprovoked and violent physical attacks. A few of the victims received some form of medical attention after the robberies.”
Harris said the violent robberies could have a long-term psychological impact on the victims.
“One could only imagine the trauma that a victim would be subjected to,” he said. “These are violent individuals. For the most part, the victims were minding their own business going about their regular routines before being ambushed by these two violent individuals.”
Harris offered some safety tips that could help victims protect themselves and their property.
“Be aware of your surroundings, invest in dashcam footage if you can and try to comply as best as you can to lessen the propensity for violence although it is not guaranteed,” he said.
On April 11, Merrick Beddaoui, 22, and Christopher Ugochukwu, 19, were arrested. They face more than 90 charges, including robbery with a firearm, robbery and disguise with intent.
Four vehicles, a loaded Glock pistol modified to make it automatic, laser sight, two extended prohibited magazines and 32 rounds of handgun ammunition were alleged to have been seized in a search warrant.
Also alleged to have been seized were victims’ identification and property, vehicle keys from the carjacking incidents, clothing worn during the robberies and a vehicle key reprogramming device.
Two women, who were in the hotel when the search warrant was carried out, have been charged with firearm offences.
Teianna Henry and Delisa Miller, both 24, face a combined 13 charges.
Harris said the investigation is ongoing.
Superintendent Mike Barsky, who oversees Specialized Criminal Investigations, said there is a rise in motor vehicle thefts across the city.
“We know that those involved often operate across borders, impacting the wider GTA,” he pointed out. “This includes carjackings where suspects use physical force or weapons to get the victims out of their vehicles as is the case with the investigation we are here to talk about today. Whether a victim is physically injured or not, we know that these types of crimes have an undeniable impact and can often be very traumatic.”
Barsky said collaboration is key to solving crimes.
“These excellent working partnerships have ultimately led to the arrest of two people in this investigation who we allege are responsible for 19 separate carjackings,” he said. “On behalf of the Toronto Police Service, I want to thank our partners for their efforts in helping us tackle auto thefts and carjackings and ultimately bring justice to the victims.”