Saanich Police had to rent a shipping container to store the bulk of more than $100,000 in stolen property they recovered from one home in October.
Police used a press conference to highlight the vast amount of property recovered from a residence in the 5800 block of the Pat Bay Highway. The stolen goods included jewelry, construction equipment, power tools, large generators, compressors, snowblowers, pressure washers, at least one vehicle, several licence plates, over 1,000 keys and four firearms – all long guns or rifles.
“This is huge,” said Sgt. Steve Eassie. “It’s not uncommon for us to recover stolen property, it’s not uncommon for us to find a cache of stolen property, but I can tell you the amount of property related to this particular incident is bigger than we’ve ever seen.
“I think we’re being quite conservative in our estimate of over $100,000. There was a substantial amount of recovered jewelry and some of those items were quite highly priced.”
The property was discovered following the arrest of two men by Oceanside RCMP in early October for a break-in at the Qualicum Beach Inn. Information from the investigation indicated a potential link between the suspects and an address in Saanich.
In a review of the information, the Saanich Police Street Crime Unit and crime analyst linked a female suspect from a July ATM theft to the Pat Bay Highway address. She, too, was arrested by Oceanside RCMP after she attended to the detachment to recover some of her personal belongings. She was released on a promise to appear to attend court at a later date.
Saanich Police executed a search warrant at the Pat Bay Highway residence, where they found the extensive collection of stolen property. Eassie said the stolen property was taken from as far north as Parksville on Vancouver Island, as well as across the Lower Mainland and as far east as Nelson.
“There’s a good possibility that if people have suffered a break-in to their homes or a break-in to their vehicle, we may have some of their property,” he said, noting police have contacted numerous property owners to return their stolen items. “I can tell you we’ve seized well over 200 exhibits at this point.”
Eassie said dozens of sets of financial documents and identification were recovered, but noted the police have not connected any incidents of identity theft or identity fraud to the property they seized.
Darren George Chernoff, 45, and Zoe Jacqueline Thompson, 26, each face 45 charges for the property theft, including 17 counts of possession of stolen property under $5,000, two counts of possession of stolen property over $5,000, 19 counts of dealing with an identity document without excuse, five counts of possession of a weapon obtained through an offence, one count of unsafe storage of a firearm and one count of break and enter and commit theft.
Chernoff is currently in custody, awaiting a further court appearance in early December, in addition to his court dates from the Oceanside arrest. Thompson failed to appear in court on Nov. 17 and is believed to have fled to the Lower Mainland. A warrant for her arrest has been issued.
In an effort to return the remaining property to its rightful owners, the Saanich Police will be posting photographs of the stolen property on its website. To view the photos, visit saanichpolice.ca.
If you have been a victim of a crime and observe your property, please contact the Saanich Police non-emergency line at 250-475-4321.
Anyone that may have information about the location of Thompson, or anyone that may have information relating to this investigation, is asked to contact Saanich Police at 250-475-4321 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).