Police arrest man stealing bulk cigarettes from Costco customers

More than $100,000 worth of cigarettes were stolen in 2012 from the vehicles of Costco customers all over B.C.

Members of the Greater Victoria Regional Crime Unit arrested a Langley man  on Wednesday who they believe is responsible for a rash of cigarette thefts targeting Costco customers.

According to Staff Sgt. Gary Schenk, with the RCU, in August police in Greater Victoria identified a pattern in high-valued cigarette thefts.

“The suspects appear to be watching people make purchases (of cigarettes at Costco), then follow them to see if the opportunity presents to make a theft,” Schenk told the News in August. Most often, the suspect would break in to a vehicle left unattended after being loaded with the cigarettes.

An investigation revealed 28 nearly identical incidents throughout B.C in 2012., occurring in Saanich, Langford, Nanaimo, Burnaby, Abbotsford, Coquitlam and Kamloops.

Since August, more than $20,000 in cigarettes were stolen in half a dozen incidents on Vancouver Island. In total, more than $100,000 worth of cigarettes were stolen.

In December 2012, RCU members identified a vehicle suspected of having been used in a number of the thefts, Schenk said. They traced the vehicle, and determined its travel patterns to and from the Island lined up with at least one of the thefts.

On Jan. 23, RCU members observed a suspect follow a vehicle from the Nanaimo Costco to an area restaurant.

“When the unsuspecting driver entered the restaurant (the suspect) donned a disguise, smashed the window out of the vehicle and stole approximately $3,200 worth of cigarettes which the victims had just purchased at Costco,” Schenk said.

RCU members followed the man to the Costco in Courtney.

Once stopped in the parking lot, he was arrested without incident.

Christopher Sharafi, 46, was charged this week with four counts each of mischief under $5,000 and theft under $5,000, two counts of possession of stolen property, and one count each of disguise with intent, possession of break-in instruments, and fail to comply with conditions of recognizance.

The investigation continues, and Schenk says more charges are anticipated.

“We’ve linked all 28 event by the fact the cigarettes were recently purchased from Costco and were stolen, and it appears the victims were followed. We’re actively working to charge him with as many of them as the evidence will allow,” he said.

Given the amount of cigarettes that were stolen, along with “past experience and street-level intelligence,” Schenk says RCU members believe the smokes were being sold on a cigarette black market.

“We’re talking about cigarette volumes too great for any individual use or consumption. We definitely think they’re being resold,” he said. At this point, however, that hasn’t been confirmed and only the cigarettes stolen on Jan. 23 have been recovered.

“This is avery significant arrest, just by the scope of the investigation, the  dollar value of the stolen property, and just the fact that this guy’s been offending in the province for the length of time that he has,” Schenk said. “We’re very pleased to have finally made an arrest on an offender that was  preying on innocent and unsuspecting small business people.”

kslavin@saanichnews.com

Just Posted

Retooled Oak Bay hoops team starts strong

‘Not the tallest,’ but Oak Bay are off to big start

Saanich seeks contractors for Shelbourne Street upgrade project

The three-phase project is expected to begin in 2020

PHOTOS: West Shore students rally for 10,000 Tonight food drive

Students, community members gather, sort food donations

UPDATED: Royal Jubilee gets 15 more patient beds for Greater Victoria end-of-life care

New patient beds in hospice and acute palliative care to be in place by spring 2020

Cannabis cultivation: Former North Saanich chicken farm goes into pot

North Saanich would join a small, growing number of communities with marijuana growing

VIDEO: Octopus, bald eagle battle after bird ‘bites off more than it can chew’ in B.C. waters

B.C. crew films fight between the two feisty animals in Quatsino off north Vancouver Island

Raptors fans show Kawhi the love in his return to Toronto

Leonard receives championship ring, leads new club to win

POLL: Do you have a real or artificial Christmas tree?

The lights are up, holiday shoppers are bustling through the streets and… Continue reading

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of Dec. 10

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Process to identify those killed in Gabriola plane crash could take days

Canadian flight museum suggests Alex Bahlsen of Mill Bay died in Tuesday’s crash

One man dead after car crash in Nanaimo

One person died, another was injured in the accident which happened Wednesday on Nanaimo Lakes Road

‘Honest mistake:’ RCMP says B.C. cannabis shop can keep image of infamous Mountie

Sam Steele wearing military, not RCMP uniform in image depicted in Jimmy’s Cannabis window

B.C. conservation officers put down fawn blinded by pellet gun on Vancouver Island

Young deer found near construction site in Hammond Bay area in Nanaimo, B.C.

Laid-off forest workers converge on B.C. legislature

Loggers call for action on strike, provincial stumpage

Most Read