Employment Law

ServiceOntario employee arrested in $9.5M auto-theft bust, 100 cars found: Toronto Police

A Toronto Police detective discusses Project Poacher via a livestream.

Toronto police have recently arrested four suspects and recovered more than 100 stolen vehicles in a significant auto theft investigation. Dubbed Project Poacher, this months-long probe revealed that a former ServiceOntario employee was allegedly involved in a scheme to provide fraudulent vehicle documents.

The Investigation

Detective Dan Kraehling announced that the investigation, which began in January 2024, has led to 28 charges.

  • The suspects are accused of conspiring with a former ServiceOntario employee who was paid to create legitimate-looking vehicle registrations and license plates for stolen vehicles.
  • This involved using vehicle identification numbers (VINs) from vehicles previously sold and exported out of the country.

How the Scheme Worked

The former ServiceOntario employee allegedly provided clean vehicle documents and plates, allowing the stolen vehicles to be disguised and sold to unsuspecting buyers or used in other criminal activities. Some vehicles were even registered to non-existent or deceased individuals to further confuse law enforcement. The stolen vehicles were predominantly sold through various online marketplaces.

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The Outcome

The investigation revealed a significant number of stolen vehicles, with an estimated value of $9.5 million. Among these, 21 were luxury vehicles worth approximately $1.8 million. All suspects involved have been apprehended, and no further suspects are currently being sought in connection with this case.

Is This a Termination For Cause?

In Ontario, employers must conduct a thorough investigation to confirm misconduct before terminating an employee for cause, or without a severance package. The investigation must show that the employee engaged in serious, intentional misconduct that was not trivial and not condoned by the employer.

In this case, if the investigation confirms that the ServiceOntario employee intentionally participated in the criminal scheme, their actions would meet the criteria for “willful misconduct” under Ontario law. This means ServiceOntario can likely terminate the employee without severance pay. The employee may also face criminal charges due to the seriousness of their alleged actions, which the Toronto Star reports is the case.

High threshold

The threshold for a dismissal for cause is extremely high. In our extensive experience as employment lawyers, employers throughout the province often incorrectly fire employees for cause. What they perceive as justifiable reasons for a dismissal without severance likely won’t hold up in the eyes of the law. In many cases, a termination without cause, which includes full severance pay, is the proper route. A complete severance package is based on a number of factors, and can be as much as 24 months’ pay.

Follow these important steps if you are fired for cause in Ontario.

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