Robberies bring three-year jail term

A Cawston man who made off with a total of $130 and two Subway sandwiches in three separate robberies is headed to a federal penitentiary.

Mike Wicentowich was sentenced to three years and three months for three counts of robbery and one count of dangerous driving stemming from incidents in Penticton, Keremeos and Vancouver.

Around 2:35 p.m. on Dec. 7, Penticton RCMP were dispatched to a robbery at Britannia Pies located on West Industrial Avenue. Wicentowich, who was on bail for robbing a Vancouver coffee shop of $80 on Aug. 30, demanded the Britannia Pies cashier give him money and flashed what looked like a gun in his waistband to the clerk. Wicentowich left the scene with $50.

Two hours later, Wicentowich walked into the Keremeos Subway and ordered two sandwiches. When the cashier rung up his order, Wicentowich pointed what she believed to be a handgun. He then took the food and left.  An employee went out the back door and began writing down the man’s licence plate number when Wicentowich noticed and pulled the gun out and pointed it before the employee retreated back inside calling 9-1-1.

About a block away, Wicentowich collided with another vehicle and kept driving. RCMP then found the man on Highway 3 speeding and driving erratically without headlights on. The officer saw Wicentowich cross the centre line and hit a sedan head on. No one sustained serious injuries in the crash. RCMP found two Subway sandwiches and a toy replica gun on the passenger seat and recorded the man as having a blood alcohol level of 221 milligrams.

“It is rather a strange situation,” said Crown counsel Nashina Devji, who was asking for a four to five-year sentence. “Where someone with no criminal record all of sudden accrues a number of criminal charges.”

Judge Meg Shaw said at the man’s sentencing on Monday at Penticton provincial court that she believed the Britannia Pies robbery seemed to be pre-meditated, and although it was minimal violence “it was increasing with each robbery.” Shaw, who also gave Wicentowich a three-year driving prohibition, called the robberies “amateurish”, but said it was paramount to show citizens that safety of store clerks is important.

Wicentowich told Penticton RCMP he had purchased the gun from a store while out Christmas shopping and he had committed the robberies to pay for Christmas presents for his parents. Wicentowich had been living with his parents who were trying to help him in his alcohol and heroin rehabilitation.

Defence counsel Robert Maxwell had asked the court for a provincial jail sentence of two years less a day. He claimed the 31-year-old man would receive more assistance towards his rehabilitation including years of tough probation conditions, rather than the less restrictive conditions when released from federal time.

“No probation, no parole. What you get is a loose cannon when he gets out,” said Maxwell.

The defence said Wicentowich had been an alcoholic for 14 years before he sought rehabilitation. It was only three weeks after leaving rehab that he began using heroin. Wicentowich sent the Penticton Western News a letter, dated Dec. 25, apologizing for his acts and to the employees he robbed.

“It was never my intention to scare either of you. I would have never harmed either of you,” said Wicentowich in the letter that also apologized to the people in the cars he crashed into. “The only thing that I am happy with this whole situation is that no one was seriously hurt except for myself ... I pray that at sometime I could be forgiven by those I affected. I just truly am sorry for my actions.”

The Vancouver robbery happened months prior to the Okanagan incidents. On Aug. 30, Wicentowich robbed $80 from a cashier at a 24-hour coffee shop in Vancouver at 4:55 a.m. RCMP found Wicentowich later that morning where he confessed to committing the robbery, stating he needed money for drugs and alcohol. While in custody, he wrote an apology letter to the coffee shop employee.


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