Like many northern New Englanders, Burlington, Vermont contractor Greg Giro likes to make an occasional trip to take in some big-city life in Montreal.
But increasingly, they are being targeted by car thieves, say Canadian authorities and a U.S. insurance industry group that tracks the crimes. Sophisticated organized crime car-theft rings target U.S. cars because they usually lack the tracking devices and other anti-theft technology that Canadian insurance companies require, investigators said.
Giro got the bad news three hours after parking in a Montreal hotel’s garage. He noticed he had forgotten his reading glasses and went to retrieve them from his truck, a 2006 Toyota Tundra that he had just bought for about $28,000 in January.
It was gone.
“I went through the whole parking garage because I just couldn’t believe it,” Giro said.
He called police and reported the theft. Detectives told him his truck most likely would follow a common path for vehicles snagged by organized car theft rings operating in Canadian cities. It would soon be packed into a shipping container and loaded onto a freighter bound for some distant port — often in the Third World.
City detectives acted on a tip about three weeks later and opened two shipping containers just before they were to be loaded onto a Ghana-bound freighter. Among four vehicles inside was Giro’s truck, placing him among the fewer than 2 percent of Canadian car theft victims whose vehicles are recovered.
“He was extremely lucky,” said Heidi Jordan, a senior special agent with the National Insurance Crime Bureau. “That does not happen.”
Northern New England residents have lost about 100 vehicles to Canadian thieves in the last 18 months, Jordan said. Many are late-model and expensive makes, with their average value about $30,000, she said.
Detective Sgt. Robert Dimatteo of the Montreal Police Department, the lead investigator in the theft of Giro’s truck, said methods used by the car-theft rings range from smashing a window and hot-wiring the engine to using a tow-truck or high-tech tools designed to defeat car alarms.
He said the theft-rings consider it a low-risk crime. “It’s easy money, and the sentencing is not as high as other crimes here,” he said. “There’s a lot of money to be made.”
Giro said he still likes to travel north, but has adopted a new strategy. “I’ve been taking my old truck to Montreal.”
Information from: The Burlington Free Press,
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