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3 charged in Alta. auto theft ring connected to organized crime

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Several stolen vehicles believed to have been used in organized and serious crime, including one homicide, have been found in Alberta during an investigation into an auto theft ring.

Mounties in Edmonton announced on Thursday charges against three people.

They said a trend emerged in March of brand-new Ford Explorers being stolen from dealerships throughout central Alberta.

"The thefts were sophisticated, as the suspects were programming new keys for the vehicles and the vehicles were being driven off dealership lots with both sets of keys still accounted for," commented Supt. Michael McCauley.

The vehicles were then re-vinned and fraudulently registered in Alberta.

Two were found at the Port of Vancouver, set to be exported, and another carrying $150,000 in cash was found in Ontario by York police.

But two vehicles recovered in the Edmonton area were connected to organized crime.

A 2023 GMC Acadia ATF was linked to the April homicide of Mohamed Abdi in Edmonton.

Another vehicle was linked to a March 30 shooting in the Mycroft area.

Both events are still being investigated by Edmonton Police Service.

Altogether, police recovered about $500,000 in property, including: seven Ford Explorers, four Ford F-350s, the GMC Acadia, a Toyota Rav 4, four railers, two snowmobiles, several "devices capable of programming vehicle keys," a radio frequency detector for finding GPS trackers in vehicles, cocaine valued at $30,000, fentanyl valued at $5,000, MDMA, and methamphetamine.

"Obviously, with the volume of drugs that we've seized, we believe they're being utilized in general terms again for trafficking of narcotics," McCauley said.

Quinn Richard Olson, 48, from Lacombe, faces 28 charges altogether, including motor vehicle theft, break and enter, altering a VIN, and uttering a forged document.

William Blackwood, 48, from Lac Ste. Anne County, faces seven charges of possession of property obtained by crime.

Both are being kept in custody until their next court date.

Nikki Yargeau, 25, from Red Deer, is wanted on an arrested warrant. She was charged with break and enter, fraudulent concealment, four counts of possession of property obtained by crime, motor vehicle theft, and three counts of uttering a forged document.

Anyone with information on her location is asked to call police or Crime Stoppers.

McCauley said Alberta RCMP is working with vehicle manufacturers to make their systems less vulnerable.

"It is basically a game of catch up: the criminals catch up to technology; we try to then catch up to their new techniques. And that's what we're doing now."