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'You can't blame everyone else,' judge tells man who broke into vehicles to steal credit cards in St. John's

A sheriff places handcuffs on 31-year-old Michael Squires before escorting him from a St. John’s courtroom Wednesday afternoon. Squires was sentenced for 37 charges, most of them related to the theft of credit cards from vehicles in residential areas around St. John’s.
A sheriff places handcuffs on 31-year-old Michael Squires before escorting him from a St. John’s courtroom Wednesday afternoon. Squires was sentenced for 37 charges, most of them related to the theft of credit cards from vehicles in residential areas around St. John’s. - Tara Bradbury

Michael Squires sentenced for 37 charges, mostly related to stolen wallets

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

The facts of the charges against Michael Squires were, for the most part, similar.

A St. John’s resident would contact the RNC to report their wallet had been stolen from their vehicle overnight, and their debit and credit cards had been used at different gas stations, convenience stores, supermarkets, fast food restaurants and cab companies before they had even realized the cards were missing.

In many cases police traced the thefts to Squires quickly by visiting the retail locations and viewing surveillance video captured from the time of the transactions with the stolen cards. When the investigators in each case sent images of the suspect from the videos to everyone in the police force, officers were able to identity him as Squires.

In court Wednesday, 31-year-old Squires pleaded guilty to the majority of the charges against him, with others withdrawn by the Crown as part of a plea deal. At the end of the day Wednesday, Squires had been convicted of a total of 37 charges stemming from 20 different incidents between August 2018 and January 2019.

The charges range from theft under $5,000, fraud, possession of a stolen credit card, possession of stolen property and breaching court orders, as well as shoplifting.

In one incident, police were called to the Avalon Mall area to a report of two men fighting and arrived to find Squires, wearing a handcuff around one wrist, in an altercation with a loss prevention officer from Winners who had tried to arrest him. On the ground nearby was a stolen pair of women’s Uggs boots, price tags attached.

“I deal with opiate use disorder,” Squires told Judge Jacqueline Brazil Wednesday, explaining he had stolen the wallets and other items in an effort to support his longstanding addiction. He said he had been receiving methadone treatment, but it was taken from him when he missed appointments because his doctor was located too far away and wouldn’t fax a prescription to the pharmacy.

“You can’t be blaming everyone else for what you’ve done here,” Brazil told Squires.

“No, it’s completely my fault, I understand,” Squires replied. “I’m the one that makes the choices, but it’s very hard to make choices when I am a drug addict.”

“I’m the one that makes the choices, but it’s very hard to make choices when I am a drug addict.” — Michael Squires

Defence lawyer Kellie Cullihall stressed Squires has been actively participating in drug addiction counselling in Her Majesty’s Penitentiary since his arrest, and submitted letters from mental health and addictions professionals to that end as evidence.

Squires was a hard-working red seal mechanic with a wife and four children when his addiction began, Cullihall said. He began using opiates partly to ease the pain of a broken jaw, and partly to ease the pain of losing two people close to him.

“He’s basically fed up at this point,” Cullihall said, explaining Squires wants to get his life in order. “He’s sick of the in and out (of custody).”

Prosecutor Jude Hall submitted to the court Squires’ prior criminal record, which includes 56 convictions for similar charges, all entered in provincial court on the same day in 2016. Squires also has convictions in another province, Hall said.

“It looks like he came to this province and unfortunately continued this pattern of behaviour with respect to thefts and breaches,” Hall said. “He is in custody and he is getting some help, but it looks like when he is not in custody, he’s not getting help. Perversely, the fact that he’s in jail may very well be the reason why he’s getting himself cleaned up and getting access to this programming.”

Hall argued for a 21-month jail sentence for Squires and a two-year period of probation that included a nighttime curfew; Cullihall argued for a 16-month jail term, followed by a year of probation and no curfew.

After a short recess, Brazil delivered her decision, siding with the Crown on the 21-month sentence, but agreeing with the defence that a curfew was not necessary and could impede his rehabilitation. Squires will receive just over a year of jail credit for the time he has spent on remand.

“If he’s going to offend because he needs drugs, he’ll do that at two o’clock in the afternoon as likely as he’ll do it at two o’clock in the morning,” the judge said, setting Squires’ probation period at a year.

Brazil told Squires his criminal record was a factor in her decision, and urged him to continue in treatment.

“The only way you’re going to ensure you’re not back here looking at someone like me is to get a handle on your addiction,” she said.

Twitter: @tara_bradbury


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