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BRAMP­TON BAN­DITS Man, 75, among six ar­rested in string of heists

National Post (National Edition) - - Front Page - RICHARD WARNICA

For the Bramp­ton ban­dits, it must have seemed like the score to end all scores ... Easy money. Or so they thought. But the ag­ing ban­dits were in for a sur­prise — RICHARD WARNICA,

For the Bramp­ton ban­dits, it must have seemed like the score to end all scores: An en­tire de­liv­ery truck packed nose to tail with brand new, high-end smart­phones and tablets with a to­tal re­tail value of al­most $7 mil­lion. That’s the kind of cash that mat­ters. For a 75-year-old stickup man, it’s re­tire­ment money — the kind of haul that can get you out of the game for good.

Their plan went off with­out a hitch, too. At least at first. The ban­dits hi­jacked a truck last March 13 in Bramp­ton, just out­side of Toronto, ac­cord­ing to Peel Re­gional Po­lice. They blocked off the truck with a car, held the driver at gun­point, then drove him and it to a nearby in­dus­trial park. There they un­loaded the goods — 8,500 de­vices in to­tal — packed them all into a new truck and drove away.

Easy money. Or so they thought. But the ag­ing ban­dits were in for a sur­prise.

Mem­bers of the same group tried an­other heist in July. Just af­ter 2 a.m., they ap­proached a ware­house yard in Hal­ton Hills, a Toronto sub­urb. They held the se­cu­rity guard at gun­point: cam­era footage shows one of the ban­dits grip­ping a ter­ri­fied man in a head­lock, push­ing a pis­tol into his back. But they abandoned the plot when they re­al­ized they were be­ing filmed.

They were at it again later that summer, ac­cord­ing to po­lice. On Aug. 25, the same group broke into a Mis­sis­sauga truck yard and stole three com­mer­cial trucks and two trail­ers. Later that same night, po­lice ar­rested four of the men en route to what in­ves­ti­ga­tors be­lieve was an­other hi­jack­ing. The of­fi­cers found a loaded Smith & Wes­son, duct tape, rope, zip ties and bear spray with the men. In Septem­ber, Peel po­lice ar­rested what they say were the two other mem­bers of the group.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors laid a to­tal of 63 charges against the six men, in­clud­ing a mix of kidnapping, rob­bery and gun of­fences. At a news con­fer­ence in Mis­sis­sauga Wed­nes­day, act­ing Det. Steve Sher­win, the lead in­ves­ti­ga­tor, dis­played a pic­ture of their six mug shots on a big screen. One of the pic­tures, on the bot­tom right of the grid, stuck out. It was the face of Ce­cil Young, ac­cused stickup artist, armed rob­ber, and man who was alive to see the end of the Sec­ond World War.

“I’d be ly­ing if I said I wasn’t sur­prised that a 75-year-old man was charged,” Sher­win said when asked about Young’s un­usual age (for an ac­cused hi­jacker).

Young was the old­est of the al­leged stickup gang. But none of them are young. Gar­nett Rick­etts, 45, Ian Mitchell, 47, Dex­ter Abrams, 49, Christo­pher Mor­nan, 50, and Ken­drick Young, 61, were also charged.

Sher­win said in­ves­ti­ga­tors have so far found no link be­tween the men and any form of or­ga­nized crime. He did say all were pre­vi­ously known to po­lice and urged any­one, in any other part of Canada, with knowl­edge of sim­i­lar crimes, to get in touch, adding that the ar­rested men had ties to com­mu­ni­ties across East­ern and West­ern Canada. “Our pur­pose to­day is to get their faces out,” he said.

As to why the men al­legedly kept go­ing back af­ter land­ing such an in­cred­i­ble score in March, well, it turns out their ini­tial haul wasn’t quite what it seemed. The phones, in­clud­ing de­vices from Apple, LG, Huawei and Mo­torola, were equipped with se­cu­rity pro­grams that ef­fec­tively shut them down when stolen, Sher­win said. “They es­sen­tially be­come a pa­per­weight."

Imag­ine that. A boomer foiled by tech. It’s un­think­able.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors have re­cov­ered some of the phones and tablets; they put them on dis­play in Mis­sis­sauga Wed­nes­day. But the rest of them are still out there, locked off and pre­sum­ably worth­less.

The truck driver in the first heist was trau­ma­tized but not phys­i­cally harmed, Sher­win said. The se­cu­rity guard from the aborted rob­bery in July was roughed up and ter­ri­fied be­fore be­ing re­leased.

None of the al­le­ga­tions against the six ac­cused have been proven in court. The in­ves­ti­ga­tion con­tin­ues.

I’D BE LY­ING IF I SAID I WASN’T SUR­PRISED

THAT A 75-YEAR-OLD MAN WAS CHARGED.

J.P. MOCZULSKI FOR POST­MEDIA NEWS

Peel Re­gional Po­lice Act­ing Det. Stephen Sher­win an­nounces Wed­nes­day the ar­rest of six men in a se­ries of thefts of elec­tronic de­vices worth mil­lions. The sus­pects, in­clud­ing a 75-year-old man, were brazen in their ac­tiv­i­ties, po­lice say.

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