Mounties in northern B.C. say a recent arrest for shoplifting led to the discovery of an “elaborate fencing operation” and the seizure of more than $225,000 worth of stolen goods.
The investigation began on Jan. 27 when Fort St. John RCMP were called to a business near 96 Street and 93 Avenue in the city.
The caller reported an initial theft that had occurred on Jan. 6, but said the male suspect was inside the same store and “believed to actively be shoplifting,” RCMP said in a news release.
Officers responded to the store, but the suspect was gone when they arrived, police said.
Investigators identified the man and, on Feb. 1, officers executed multiple search warrants at his home, seizing “a large amount of suspected stolen goods,” according to the release.
All told, investigators processed nearly 650 items seized during the searches, with a combined estimated value over $225,000, police said, adding that their investigation is ongoing and charges related to the seized items have not yet been forwarded to Crown.
On Feb. 4, police received a report of the same man allegedly shoplifting at the same store. This time, responding officers encountered him outside the store with items they believed had been stolen.
Clifford Poole was arrested after a brief foot chase, and was held in custody, police said, noting that a charge of theft under $5,000 was approved during that time.
Online court records associated with the RCMP file number suggest that Poole, who was born in 1987, pleaded guilty to that charge, which stemmed from the original Jan. 6 incident.
He also appears to have pleaded guilty to another charge of theft under $5,000 and a charge of willfully resisting or obstructing a peace officer, both stemming from the Feb. 4 arrest.
“This appears to be a fairly elaborate fencing operation,” said Staff Sgt. Scott Watson, acting officer in charge of the Fort St. John RCMP detachment, in the release.
“The results of this investigation will have a significant impact on the local property crime trade in Fort St. John and surrounding areas.”
As they continue to investigate the case, Fort St. John RCMP are asking anyone with information related to the thefts to contact them at 250-787-8100. Tips can also be provided anonymously via Crime Stoppers.