By Delon Shurtz - Lethbridge Herald on January 17, 2024.
A 29-year-old man, one of several individuals who broke into a Lethbridge restaurant and stole thousands of dollars worth of food and alcohol, will spend some time behind bars.
Daniel Wade Mills, who also stole items from three city businesses and the homeless shelter, pleaded guilty in Lethbridge court of justice to one count of shopbreaking/commit theft, and five counts of theft under $5,000. He was sentenced to six months in jail, but only has 45 days left to serve after being credited for time he already spent in remand custody.
On June 15 of last year the owner of Tacos Made In Mexico called police to report his restaurant had been broken into overnight. During their investigation, police learned that several businesses in the building share a back door and it had been left unlocked. The owner told police that when he left his restaurant, the other businesses were still open.
“The security video from Tacos Made In Mexico shows that four individuals came in through that back door, went to a storage room area and took a number of bottles of alcohol and pop cans and other food-related items,” explained Crown Prosecutor Bob Morrison.
Although the initial value of the stolen goods was estimated to be about $20,000, Morrison suggested that may be high and the amount is probably between $5,000 and $10,000.
“It’s difficult to say without an accurate inventory of what was actually taken.”
Police found several empty and broken tequila bottles and empty pop cans in Galt Gardens, and later while police were patrolling in the area of 3 Avenue and 13 Street North, they saw Mills, who had been identified as a suspect because the clothing matched that worn by one of the individuals seen in the restaurant’s video surveillance footage.
As police approached Mills they could see a bottle of alcohol in his partially opened backpack and could hear more bottles clinking against each other.
“When Mr. Mills was detained, the backpack was checked and it had five bottles of wine and three bottles of tequila matching the brands that had been taken from Tacos Made in Mexico during the break and enter.”
Mills described to police how he and three other individuals, whom he named, entered the building, but said he doesn’t know what the other culprits did with their share of the stolen items.
Lethbridge lawyer Tracy Hembroff said although several people were involved in the break-in, Mills was easily recognized in the video even though he was wearing a tuque and surgical mask.
“He’s kind of taken the brunt because none of the other parties were charged,” Hembroff said, adding that the stolen items were recovered and her client cooperated completely with police.
Mills also shoplifted items from several city businesses last year and in 2022. He stole an $80 pair of running shoes from Mark’s; bottles of cologne from London Drugs on two separate occasions; and a set of headphones and meal replacement drinks from the Real Canadian Superstore. He also stole a backpack from the homeless shelter, although the contents were taken by someone else.
Justice Grace Auger accepted the joint submission from the Crown and defence for a six-month sentence, and offered Mills some advice.
“Try to quit stealing, I don’t think you’re very good at it,” she said.