Mailbox thefts fed drug addiction

Michael Minchau pleads guilty to fraud, mischief and theft

A Keremeos man said he has turned his life around since the string of mailbox thefts and cheque forgeries that landed him in jail.

Michael Minchau, 31, pled guilty at the Penticton courthouse on Wednesday to 10 counts, including fraud, mischief and theft, that occurred over a span of two months in the South Okanagan Similkameen that earned him 270 days in jail. Defence council Chris Cook said Minchau was using the funds to feed his crystal meth addiction.

In early December of 2013, Minchau was caught on video at the Valley First Credit Union cashing cheques doctored to reflect his name and amounts adjusted. He was later arrested on Jan. 13, 2014 when RCMP were called by a resident who saw a red Cavalier pull into a residence in Olalla without a licence plate. The caller walked around the vehicle and noticed electronics in the vehicle and then Minchau and another person put a licence plate on the vehicle. RCMP pulled the vehicle over in Penticton on the Channel Parkway for failing to stop at a red light. RCMP found the licence plate was stolen and that Minchau had two cheques in the front of his underwear, one in his name and another with the name scratched out and his written in place.

During questioning by RCMP, Minchau admitted to prying open a bank of mailboxes and stealing cheques on Fairview Road in Oliver, Meadowlark Road in Osoyoos and two superboxes located in Keremeos. Minchau said he was working with a friend who would accept the stolen cheques into their account and he would share the money with them.

“This was very impactful to the community and the privacy and stress from it was very great,” said Crown counsel Monica Fras, who entered a joint submission on the sentencing.

Minchau, who was given credit for 1.5 days for each day he was in jail awaiting sentencing, was expected to be released on Wednesday for time served. Judge Meg Shaw also ordered a 24-month probation period which includes a 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew for the first six months. Minchau’s other conditions include abstaining from alcohol and a $2,000 fine.

“I do feel remorse and I would like to apologize to everyone my actions have affected,” said Minchau, who also faced similar charges in Grand Forks prior to these events. “These last 10 months have been a life-changing experience. I can’t say how much I hate the place I have been, I can’t say it was not a complete waste of time. It has given me a chance to become closer to God, my family and my mother. I’m glad I had this experience (jail) to turn my life around.”