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Arriving with false Mexican documents at the Montreal airport, South American criminals target wealthy families in Canada. And this network is growing, Enquête learned.

South American thieves raid Canadian homes

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A criminal network of South American thieves particularly targets, as can be seen in these images, residences in Montreal.

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They are Colombian, Chilean, Mexican, Peruvian or Venezuelan and they specifically target wealthy families. What do they have in common? They enter Canada easily, with a Mexican passport. And false identities.

This is how an international criminal network called South has been operating discreetly for several years in Quebec American Theft Groups(SATG).

They tried to enter one of my houses. Fortunately, the police were following these criminals and, as soon as they arrived at my house, they caught them in my garden, confides the daughter of one of the greatest fortunes in Quebec, who prefers not to reveal her identity.

The latter, who lives in a demerged city to the west of Montreal, considers herself lucky. Several of his acquaintances have recently suffered major thefts. They looked for valuable things, clothes, jewelry, handbags, she says.

This criminal network has been followed by the FBI and various police organizations around the world for several years.

SATGs “travel and engage in organized theft activities.” They also represent a “threat to public safety and security,” according to a briefing document produced by the Canada Border Services Agency.

According to our information, the members of this group began to operate in Canada and particularly in the West Island after the lifting of visa requirements for Mexican nationals, which came into force in end of 2016.

This measure directly made it easier for these South American thieves to arrive in the country, armed with false identity documents.

Often, these people have a criminal record in the United States. They should be inadmissible to Canada. The only way to get there is to have a Mexican passport, which is easy to obtain, assures a police source, familiar with the matter, who is not authorized to speak publicly.

They use a Mexican passport to come to Canada and commit crimes. These are people who cause a lot of damage to the community and who have a cost to Canada.

A quote from A police source

As revealed by Enquête, criminal groups have in fact specialized in the production of false documents.

One ​​of these traffickers, met in Mexico, confirmed to us that he produces passports for people from multiple Latin American countries, who seek to enter clandestinely into Canada.

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Investigators Di Matteo and Cantelmi, at the SPVM, have been looking into these criminal networks for several years.

Canada would have become an easy target for these criminals who are currently very active in Quebec, according to detective sergeant Roberto Di Matteo, who co-directs a special investigation unit at the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM).

This was created in 2017, to fight against SATG, which was beginning to emerge in the country.

They mainly target jewelry, money, luxury bags. They have fences here and, subsequently, the money and the bags are sent to their country, where there is a market to resell these goods.

A quote from Roberto Di Matteo, detective sergeant at the SPVM

It's surprising when we see the extent of what they put into action place, adds his colleague Anthony Cantelmi. We are talking about organized crime in all its facets, from start to finish. These are small cells that can commit a very large number of crimes. That makes them excellent thieves.

From entry into the country through responses to customs officers at the airport, accommodation, travel and even driving licenses: everything would be planned in advance with a very precise “modus operandi”, develops this investigator.

“They are very enlightened, educated people. They are not amateurs,” continues Anthony Cantelmi, emphasizing that these criminals have even developed “counter-shadowing techniques.”

They come to the country with the sole aim of stealing people, specifies Roberto Di Matteo. No physical violence is committed and these networks can count on lookouts, who monitor the targeted housing before and during their operations.

These are not people on the street corner impulsively deciding to steal. They are very organized people. This is the first time that we have seen this level of organization for this type of crime.

A quote from Anthony Cantelmi, detective sergeant at the SPVM

Several arrests took place last June, after a series of break-ins in the west and north of the metropolis at the start of the year. Jewelry estimated at nearly $200,000 was seized from the suspects' vehicle and home.

In other cases, thefts totaling more than a million dollars were also committed.

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As we can see on this surveillance camera, these thieves also use garden furniture to climb upstairs in residences.

Despite the interventions of the SPVM, this criminal network will not weaken. The fault is the current loopholes on the Canadian border, widely exploited by the SATG.

They are extremely mobile people. As soon as they feel that the police are after them, they will change countries, cities. They will head to Toronto, Western Canada or elsewhere. This is what complicates our task, admits Anthony Cantelmi, who compares these criminals to ghosts, capable of becoming invisible.

Even if they have been spotted, arrested and deported, these criminals manage to evade controls by Canadian customs officers.

A Colombian thief, Ricardo Alfonso Mora Parada, used this process on numerous occasions between 2018 and 2020, according to court documents filed in the Court of Quebec, obtained by Investigation.

Accused and deported, he returned to Canada with different Mexican passports, through Toronto and Montreal airports, while at the same time he was the subject of several arrest warrants in the United States.

The comparison of his fingerprints with an American database subsequently revealed the existence of 15 different known identities, under 10 dates of different births, is it mentioned in a file filed before the Court of Quebec.

Other court documents are full of similar facts, according to our findings.

The last time we saw a lull [in flights from this network] was during the pandemic, when the borders were closed. This is good proof of the fact that this is their way of returning to Canada, believes Anthony Cantelmi.

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In June, the SPVM arrested four individuals who stole luxury watches and jewelry.

During an interview with Enquête, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is remained stingy with comments.

I don't want to discuss it in detail. We have investigations and I must protect the integrity of the investigations, believes the vice-president of the federal organization, Aaron McCrorie.

By email, a spokesperson for the federal agency nevertheless confirms the activity of these criminals on Canadian soil.

The CBSA is aware of the presence of international organized crime groups in Canada and always strives to prevent and disrupt their operations.

A quote from Jacqueline Roby, spokesperson for the CBSA ;CBSA

We take these threats very seriously, maintains Aaron McCrorie. Our defense layers are very effective and we are very proud of our results.

On the ground, however, opinions seem to diverge. Without blaming anyone, SPVM investigators maintain that these criminals are definitely present in the streets of Montreal.

The customs officers, argues Anthony Cantelmi, are doing their best better. But fake passports are so well made today that they are extremely difficult to detect.

With the collaboration of Daniel Tremblay and Martin Movilla

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Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116