By Tina Comeau
When a Yarmouth County gas station was broken into the morning that the storm Arthur blew through the area, the business’s owner said it just wasn’t right.
Later on when some individuals cashed in a large number of lottery tickets in another part of the province, an astute employee had the same feeling – this doesn’t seem right.
The employee’s suspicion that something was off, along with video surveillance, helped the RCMP move the investigation forward. The result has been the arrest of two suspects who are facing various charges connected to an alleged July 5 early-morning break-in at the Tusket Ultramar.
Adam Blake Randall, 31, of Lower Sackville, has been charged with break and enter, possession of stolen property, possession of break-in instruments and wearing a disguise with the intent to commit an offence.
Brenton Matthew Laprade, 22, of Newport, Hants County, has been charged with break and enter, possession of stolen property and possession of break-in instruments.
Both men were released from custody following their arrests and are scheduled to appear in provincial court in Yarmouth on Tuesday, Sept. 23.
The RCMP say video surveillance from inside the Tusket Ultramar showed that a large amount of tobacco products and lottery tickets had been taken.
Guy Surette, the owner of Tusket Ultramar, previously told the Yarmouth Vanguard that he had gotten a call around 6:25 a.m. saying the business had been broken into. The police responded and it was around 10 a.m. before the business was able to open for the day.
Because of the storm, which brought hurricane-force winds to the region, the power was off in the area at the time of the alleged break-in and the business’s alarm wasn’t working. However a battery-operated camera was functioning, Surette had said.
The Yarmouth RCMP, in particular its Yarmouth/Clare Street Crime Enforcement Unit, was involved in the investigation. The RCMP eventually caught a break that saw them involve the Windsor and Lower Sackville RCMP in the investigation. Investigators conducted search warrants at residences in Newport and Lower Sackville. The RCMP say these searches resulted in the seizure of several items that they allege are related to the break and enter. This has led to the charges against two suspects.
Asked how it came to be that RCMP from other parts of the province were brought in on the investigation, Corporal Paul Pittman says, “It was a very tuned-in employee at a gas station where individuals tried to cash tickets in another part of the province. A suspect had cashed in a large amount of tickets, the store employee found it very peculiar and made note,” he says. “Basically it lead us on a path, and through video surveillance in several stores, gas stations, where lotto tickets were redeemed, we obtained footage.”
Cpl. Pittman says this led the RCMP to a vehicle, which he says wasn’t involved, but it was associated to other people “and when we got looking, we found two people that matched the descriptions in the video.”
In saying this, though, at the time the RCMP still had no idea who the suspects were. Other investigative techniques, which the RCMP won’t disclose, were used in the investigation that was carried out over weeks.
The RCMP say the lotto tickets were being redeemed up until July 11.
As of yet, the allegations relating to the break-in and involving the two suspects have not been proven in court. The RCMP is still investigating whether there were other break-ins or whether it was just the one alleged instance.
Meanwhile, Cpl. Pittman says while no business wants to be the target of a crime, they should still take steps to protect themselves. Plus, he says, it gives the RCMP something to work with.
“When it comes to businesses and their video equipment, if you have terrible video equipment you aren’t going to get good results,” he says. “If you have good video equipment, you’re going to get good results.”