Prolific thief caught with a gun in Penticton sentenced

Criminal caught in Penticton through an investigation involving multiple out-of-town RCMP members is spending the next few years in jail.

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A Surrey criminal caught in Penticton through an investigation involving multiple out-of-town RCMP members is spending the next few years in jail.

Matthew Sidney Soper, 30, pleaded guilty to one count of possession of stolen property under $5,000, possessing and using a stolen credit card and possessing an unauthorized firearm.

On May 5, 2015, Heritage Hills resident Jennifer Martinson reported her residence and vehicle had been broken into, with her bank cards, credit cards and personal effects missing. During police investigation it was uncovered that approximately 16 unauthorized transactions had occurred with a total value around $6,000.

“I felt very overwhelmed and unsafe. I was afraid the people who had my stuff would come back. I couldn’t eat that day and I was anxious,” Martinson told the court. “My daughter came and stayed with me because I was so shaky. That night I couldn’t sleep because I was worried about the money and potential identity theft and I was aware of every sound that I heard during the night.”

Martinson outlined the stress resulted in her going through shock and a form of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Soper was found on surveillance video using the stolen cards, though he did not plead guilty to charges related to this activity, Crown counsel Kurt Froehlich noted.

Soper told the court that despite his lengthy criminal record, with 72 prior convictions — including 20 fraud convictions and 18 related to property crime and theft — he had never heard a victim impact statement read aloud, he apologized and said “it was really hard to listen to.”

“Well, I hope so,” said Judge Gail Sinclair. “It’s all fun and games to go on a spree with someone else’s credit cards, but people like you don’t think of the problems you cause to the victims.”

On May 6, 2015 Soper was also caught on surveillance video at a local car wash where Martinson’s social insurance card and other personal effects were found in a dumpster nearby, along with cards and documents belonging to other individuals. The vehicle, a Volkswagen Passat, Soper was driving at the car wash was later determined to be reported stolen after a car theft in Surrey. RCMP received assistance from a number of out-of-town members who came to Penticton to assist in the search.

Around 8 p.m. May 7, 2015 RCMP located the Passat parked at the Best Western hotel on Skaha Lake Road. Police set up surveillance on the hotel and around 1 a.m. observed him walk out the room and down the exterior stairs of the hotel with a backpack. Soper fled as police told him to stop. One officer witnessed Soper throw a gun while police continued the pursuit until a police service dog was able to wrangle Soper to the ground by biting him multiple times on his legs.

(Read more here: Nighttime raid leads to arrest)

The gun, loaded with a bullet in the chamber, was determined to be a Sig Sauer semi-auto handgun, a restricted firearm reported stolen out of Surrey in April 2015.  After a brief struggle, Soper was taken into custody. In his waistband was a can of bear spray. In his bag, a bank card in the name of Jennifer Martinson was located.  Around Soper’s neck at the time of the arrest was a police badge, reported stolen from the Vancouver Police Department.

Soper was released on bail in December 2014 for unrelated charges, with a condition that he not possess debit or bank cards in a name other than his own.

Judge Sinclair noted his sentence is only for the offences Soper had pleaded guilty to, as the initial list of charges and narrative information presented by Crown counsel was much lengthier.

“In regard to (the firearms charges) one need only look at what’s going on in the United States of America to have brought home the effects of the proliferation of firearms,” Sinclair said. “I don’t live in a bubble. I suppose one only needs to look at the six o’clock news every night to see what’s going on in some communities in the Lower Mainland.”

Soper was sentenced to 57 months in jail. With pre-trial custody credit, he has served close to two years of the sentence. Soper was also given a 10-year firearm prohibition and a lifetime ban on restricted firearms.

Soper is still facing one count of breaking and entering with a trial scheduled  in Surrey Provincial Court on Dec. 21.

 

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