12/16/2014 12:21 EST | Updated 02/15/2015 05:59 EST

Auto theft ring sought to send GTA cars to Africa, police say

Police forces from the Greater Toronto Area say they have disrupted an alleged auto theft ring that was stealing Toyotas, Hondas and Land Rovers and shipping them to Africa.

Late last year, police in Durham Region noticed an uptick in vehicle thefts. They soon found a connection to an ongoing investigation in York Region.

Project Lakeland was launched this past July, a joint-forces operation that led to the recovery of 29 vehicles worth a total of more than $1 million and a series of arrests earlier this month.

When search warrants were executed in Toronto and York Region, police seized $11,000 in cash, some drugs, a Land Rover, a motorcycle, computers, cellphones, as well as documents and VIN plates that investigators say were fraudulently obtained.

Police say four men and three women have so far been charged as a result of the investigation. The accused range from 29 to 54 years of age.

It is alleged that the group included "an informal collection" of individuals who stole cars, a car dealer who helped obtain key paperwork, a person who switched the VIN numbers and an exporter who helped moved the stolen property overseas.

Additional suspects are being sought who helped support the group, police say.

The investigation continues. Police say they expect to recover additional vehicles.