Judge Vince Hogan held his nose and sentenced an auto mechanic to 18 months of house arrest for running a West Kelowna chop shop that modified VIN numbers and sold stolen cars.
The veteran judge accepted the joint submission from lawyers even though he was prepared to imprison John Newcome to two years for 16 counts of trafficking and possessing stolen vehicles.
"I don't know why we're doing this, but I'll go along with it. I've been served many a meal I find repugnant. Few induce my gag response like this, but I'll stomach it," he said.
Hogan lectured Newcome for spearheading the "systematic plundering of the community from Alberta west."
He compared his crimes to the Taliban attacking a military convoy.
"It's absolutely appalling," he said. "Every single mechanical ploy known to man falls into your grip."
Someone tipped off police two years ago that Newcome, now 45, was replacing vehicle-identification numbers at Cycle Logic on Juliann Road. By hiding their origin, he could sell the vehicles legally.
Mounties set up surveillance in July 2012 and found two trucks and two boats with modified VINs at Cycle Logic and Newcome's property at 4912 Star Place in Peachland.
They launched a major investigation, recovering trucks, boats, trailers, ATVs and motorcycles stolen in the Southern Interior and Southern Alberta. Police suspect organized gangs supplied some of the vehicles.
In one case, police watched Newcome driving a $33,000 Ford F-350 pickup taken from a Calgary dealership two months earlier. When he parked it outside a liquor store, an officer recorded the dashboard VIN and traced the number to another pickup.
A week later, police stopped a man driving the F-350 from Cycle Logic. He'd just bought it from Newcome, said Crown counsel Colin Forsyth.
In another, a man recognized his $75,000 Pontoon boat and trailer stolen from a Vernon dealer a month earlier. It was parked on Mabel Lake Road east of Enderby. Police spoke to the property owner, who confirmed he'd put down a deposit on the boat and trailer at Cycle Logic.
Police got warrants and arrested Newcome. They seized more than a dozen vehicles from his shop and house, including:
- a $15,000 ATV stolen from the back of a pickup in Salmon Arm;
- a $65,000 John Deere Skid Steer and trailer stolen from a dealership in Lethbridge, Alta.;
- a $38,740 Featherlite enclosed box trailer stolen from Pritchard Park in West Kelowna;
- a $103,000 Citation fifth-wheel RV stolen from a dealer in Penticton;
- a $24,600 Harley-Davidson stolen from Shelter Bay Marina in 2009.
Newcome, a small man with a large neck tattoo, was "enlisted in this affair by other individuals," said lawyer Grant Gray. His business was shut down after his arrest, and police seized many of his possessions, including his automotive tools. He has worked in construction while on bail.
He now lives in a rented house in Peachland with his girlfriend and her daughter. He has no record and pleaded guilty, saving the court the considerable expense of running a month-long trial, Gray said.
The judge ordered Newcome to serve the first nine months of his conditional sentence at home, except when he's working. He's under an overnight curfew during the second nine months and must abstain from liquor and using weapons.
Hogan fined him $600 for possessing three grams of cocaine and $600 for breaching his bail by not informing his supervisor he'd moved. Newcome must also pay $7,500 to a salvage company for recovering one of the boats.