Cigarette thief's jail sentence upheld

The Court of Appeal for B.C. has unanimously upheld the prison sentence handed to a 46-year-old Langley man for a year-long crime spree that stretched from the Lower Mainland to Vancouver Island and where he preyed upon Costco customers.

Christopher Sharafi travelled to Vancouver Island in either a stolen vehicle or a rental car—on at least one occasion he wore a wig for a disguise—as he "staked out" customers of Costco stores in Nanaimo and Langford, according to the appellate court decision. On two occasions, he struck customers of the Kamloops Costco store.

"Mr. Sharafi would watch the store and parking lot, identify persons who had purchased large quantities of cigarettes, and follow them in his car until he had an opportunity to smash their car window and grab their cigarettes," the court ruling said.

Sharafi's crime spree came to an end when police arrested him on Jan. 23, 2013, the same day he committed two thefts from vehicles in Courtenay, B.C., and after which he was found in possession of about $3,100 worth of stolen cigarettes, two stolen licence plates, bolt cutters, vice grips and a large crowbar.

His victims were mainly small business owners intending to re-sell the cigarettes in their convenience stores.

Of the 30 thefts he was charged with, including a July 2012 incident in Richmond where he stole more than $5,000 worth of cigarettes from a Ye Na Han, he pled guilty to 22 counts.

He was sentenced to two years less a day in prison, three years probation, and was ordered to pay restitution to 16 people for a total of about $56,000.

But Sharafi appealed, and argued the "sentencing judge erred in failing to impose a more lenient sentence."

The appeal was dismissed as "the sentencing judge made no error in principle and imposed a fit sentence given the nature and severity of the offences committed by Mr. Sharafi, and the circumstances of Mr. Sharafi himself."

In handing down the original sentence, the sentencing judge noted that Sharafi's offences involved "stalking behaviour, watching, following and serious property damage."

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