Rare theft arrest, mid-trial, by private security firm

The journey took just 90 minutes and ultimately involved an intercontinental, cross-border court battle. But what the thief and accomplice to his criminal enterprise may not have taken into account is the irony of his plan — and what an impressive achievement it was.

“I don’t think he’s probably ever even encountered anybody in Canada who had enough money to hire security professionals,” Toronto police Sergeant Chris Nelson said.

The six-member group arrived in Canada around 4 a.m. on April 22. They were all, Nelson said, likely trying to claim fraud and theft charges because they were from the Middle East. One man in the group stole a VIN registration sticker from Kevin Donovan’s pickup truck and later used the sticker to register the truck in Dubai.

And how could they not? At the time, Donovan was a 25-year-old senior economic analyst with the Bank of Canada, as well as a local resident. His BMW car is valued at $50,000 and it appeared stolen when it arrived in Toronto, so Donovan asked police if there was anything they could do to track it down. He had paid about $30,000 for the car.

Police obtained a search warrant for Donovan’s house and, once the group left, they found the stolen sticker in his garage. The group tried to run away, but officers were on the hunt.

Donovan then hired a professional security crew to track the car down. Via satellite, Donovan and the crew, including an air carrier pilot, made frequent visits to hangers in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and St. John’s, Newfoundland. When they landed, police were waiting.

For nearly three weeks, the crew followed the car around the Lower Mainland, the City of Vancouver and on to Fort McMurray, Alta., before putting in an SOS with local police on May 1, telling them to head to Halifax or they’d leave.

When Donovan and the security crew reached Halifax that day, they learned they’d get “no help” from Halifax police.

“I think they weren’t going to be sympathetic,” Nelson said.

The group hired a private security firm in Toronto and fought off a charge of theft. “It takes a long time to collect evidence,” Nelson said. He recalled one other theft suspect who found success with the evidence he did have.

The main piece of the puzzle, though, was the unique license plate. The code was supposed to include a name. Instead, it included the letter “M” — but not all letters were in a single order. It was the “M”-ing of the code, which included a name, that solved the mystery. It also provided a string of numbers, but included nothing unique to Toronto.

You can read the whole story, by Donna Robson and Kate Lyons for the National Post, here. And there’s video of what happened, below.

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