Search warrants uncover vehicle cloning operation

$400,000 of property recovered by Edmonton Police

Edmonton, AB (Oct. 4, 2018) – The Edmonton Police Service’s Auto Theft Unit has arrested three people and recovered seven stolen vehicles in relation to a VIN cloning operation.

On Sep. 27, 2018, police executed search warrants at a residence in the Hamptons area and a business in the area of 121A Street and 121 Avenue. The search of the business uncovered an active vehicle cloning operation, and resulted in the recovery of a stolen 2008 BMW X6 and a stolen and cloned 2008 Mercedes ML55. Auto Theft Unit members have also recovered two stolen 2014 Range Rovers (one of which was cloned), two stolen and cloned 2016 Dodge Ram 1500s and a stolen 2015 Jeep Cherokee that were all linked to the operation.

The search of the residence resulted in the seizure of 269 grams of cocaine worth approximately $27,000 as well as a quantity of marijuana, cash and evidence related to the cloning operation.

Vehicle cloning, or VIN cloning, is using a vehicle identification number (VIN) from a legally registered vehicle to hide the identity of a stolen or salvaged vehicle, typically the same make, model and year. The thieves use the stolen VINs to create ownership documents to register or sell the stolen vehicle. The stolen vehicle becomes an identical clone of the legitimate vehicle, with no obvious signs it was stolen. In some cases, the thieves manufacture VIN labels and VIN plates and obtain vehicle registration using forged documents in an attempt to legitimize the stolen asset.

“If you’re purchasing a used vehicle, it’s important to ask questions, especially when buying from a private seller,” says Det. Mark Kassian, with the EPS Auto Theft Unit. “Ask questions in relation to the vehicle’s owner history. Ask to see original documentation and service records. Lastly, if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

So far, 16 criminal charges have been laid in this investigation, and the total estimated value of the property recovered is approximately $400,000.  The investigation continues, and further charges are pending.

Lindy Belloc, 42, and Idrissa Diarra, 38, are jointly charged with numerous counts of possession of property obtained by crime over $5,000 and uttering forged documents.

Diarra was additionally charged with possession of a controlled substance for the purpose of trafficking and additional counts of possession of property obtained by crime over $5,000.

Alemar Villegas, 32, is charged with uttering a forged document and possession of a controlled substance.

“The EPS would like to thank our partners in the provincial auto theft working group, including other major police agencies across Alberta, the Insurance Bureau of Canada, Alberta Transportation and Service Alberta for their joint efforts to reduce auto theft in Alberta, as well as their support and cooperation with this investigation,” says Acting Staff Sgt. Greg MacNeil, with EPS Economic Crimes Section.

10 tips to avoid buying a cloned/stolen vehicle:

  1. Carefully examine the public VIN plate on the dash of the vehicle: Compare the number to the one found on the registration. Also, check the manufacturer’s label on the driver’s door or the driver’s door frame beside the latch, and compare the VIN on that label with the public VIN (found on the dash). If the label is missing or is scratched out, there is a problem.
  2. Ask for proof of ownership and identification from the seller — Compare photo identification to the name on the vehicle’s registration document and make sure they are the same. Record the seller’s driver’s licence number and contact information on the bill of sale.
  3. Check the VIN on the public Canadian Police Information Centre website at — The CPIC check is free and will tell you to contact police if there’s something wrong with the VIN.
  4. Consider online services such as CARFAX or CARPROOF — Pay particular attention to a vehicle’s registration history. If the vehicle goes back and forth several times between provinces and/or states, it may be a clone. Also, look for any noted color changes and/or odometer discrepancies.
  5. Google the VIN — If the vehicle is listed for sale in another province or country, the listing may appear on Google, indicating the possibility of a clone.
  6. Have a Vehicle Information Report (VIR) done through any registry agent — This will notify you of any liens, as well as the vehicle registration history and status within Alberta. This is NOT a stolen vehicle check.
  7. Bring a friend — It’s always a good idea to have another set of eyes to witness the transaction and corroborate any discussions with the seller.
  8. Question low sale prices — If the asking price is too good to be true, ask why. Be suspicious if the seller demands cash. It’s a good idea to complete any cash transactions at a financial institution.
  9. Keep detailed records of the transaction — Retain original copies of bills of sale (proof of ownership), vehicle registrations, service records etc. Your bill of sale is your only legal proof of ownership.
  10. Use common sense and good judgment — Your best weapon is your brain. Don’t allow your desire to buy the vehicle to override your intuition.

About Edmonton Police Service

Today, the EPS is better trained, better educated and more diverse than at any other time in history. We are proud to have an engaged workforce that is committed, motivated, and efficient. Our mission is to increase public safety through excellence in the prevention, intervention and suppression of crime and disorder. Our vision is to make Edmonton the safest major city in Canada and for the Edmonton Police Service to be recognized as a leader in policing. For more information, visit

Media release information

MRU#18R112 EPS File#18-121111
Thursday, October 4, 2018 @ 8 a.m.
Lead: A/S/Sgt. Greg MacNeil, Economic Crimes

Cheryl Voordenhout
Corporate Communications Section
Edmonton Police Service

About Insurance Bureau of Canada

Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) is the national industry association representing Canada’s private home, auto and business insurers. Its member companies make up 90% of the property and casualty (P&C) insurance market in Canada. For more than 50 years, IBC has worked with governments across the country to help make affordable home, auto and business insurance available for all Canadians. IBC supports the vision of consumers and governments trusting, valuing and supporting the private P&C insurance industry. It champions key issues and helps educate consumers on how best to protect their homes, cars, businesses and properties.

For media releases and more information, visit IBC’s Media Centre at

SOURCE: EPS Corporate Communications  via Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC)

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