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COUPLE CHARGED IN VEHICLE THEFTS

Niagara Regional Police found 140 stolen vehicles Sunday and arrested a couple operating Gater's Auto Refinishing and Auto Sales here.

The massive sweep of central and southern Ontario centered on Gaetan and Susan Lagace, both 41, and their business at 509 Webber Road.

"An intensive investigation revealed that a large number of stolen vehicles from the province of Quebec had vehicle registration histories of ownership through Gater's Auto Refinishing," police said in a statement.

"The vehicles in question are believed to be stolen and have had their vehicle identification numbers removed, and have been renumbered with a VIN from salvaged vehicle wrecks in Canada and the Unted States. These vehicles were then sold to the public in Ontario."

Police said the value of the vehicles was "conservatively estimated" at $3.1 million.

The Lagaces are charged with fraud, and additional charges of possession of stolen property are pending. They were held in jail for a bail hearing today.

Police plan to seize about 100 of the vehicles from innocent purchasers for examination as evidence. About 60 vehicles were sold to residents of the Niagara region, police said.

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