A provincial court judge has handed a nine-month jail sentence to a man caught in the act of stealing someone’s catalytic converter.
Travis Aschert, 38, had pleaded guilty to theft under $5,000, possession of property obtained by crime and resisting arrest.
In June and July of 2014, Aschert went on a spree, driving to the North Shore from Surrey and staking out Toyota 4Runners. He would park nearby and wait until the early morning hours to quickly crawl under the SUV and cut off its easily accessible catalytic converter. Scrap metal dealers are known to pay up to $200 for stolen “cats” because of the precious metals they have inside.
According to the Crown, Aschert fenced 66 catalytic converters in Abbotsford.
Police arrested him at 3 a.m. after tailing him for some time and watching him emerge from under an SUV parked on Purcell Way.
Victims of cat theft typically have to pay a $500-insurance deductible for replacement, or up to $1,700 if they are not insured.
Aschert’s lawyer had argued for a conditional sentence, on the grounds that he had turned his life around while out on bail with no run-ins with the law since his arrest. He had returned to work and had family support, including from his partner who was due to give birth any day.
But, the pattern Aschert had established and the level of planning involved meant a jail sentence would be more fitting, Judge Steven Merrick stated in his ruling.
This is the fifth time he’d been convicted of stealing catalytic converters to support his addiction, Merrick added.
Merrick said denouncing Aschert’s crime and deterring him as well as others from the same illegal activity had to be emphasized in his punishment.
“While I’m not sentencing him on his record, the fact is Mr. Aschert has a history of committing similar types of offences,” he said. “Simply stated, the court must send a messages that individuals cannot take apart a very valuable object for the purpose of getting a small part to sell for scrap because there is some valuable components to them.”
In addition to the jail time, Aschert will have 18 months of probation, which will give him a 10 p.m. curfew and a ban on possessing tools any time he is away from his residence. He must not also be found “under” anyone’s vehicle, unless the owner is present and consenting to him to being there.
Following sentencing, Aschert was taken into custody to begin his sentence.
Aschert showed little emotion as he was led from the court room to begin his sentence.