Police charge four adults, three minors in co-op heist

Safecrackers nab thousands in cash, merchandise

By JANE GEORGE

When workers arrived at Sanikiluaq's Mitiq co-op store on the morning of Oct. 20, they found intruders had broken into the store during the night.

Armed with bolt cutters and crowbars, the break-and-enter crew had cut and pried open the store's two sets of metal doors.

The staff found that the heavy metal door to the office's 2,000-pound, combination-lock safe had also been forced open – and the thousands of dollars kept there for safeguarding over the weekend were gone.

Thieves also walked off with cigarettes, digital cameras, MP3 players, memory cards and iPods.

After receiving numerous tips, the RCMP executed a search warrant on a residence located within walking distance of the co-op. There, they found $2,500 in cash, four digital cameras, two iPods, an MP3 player and several packages of cigarettes.

Police arrested four adult males and three minor females.

Later, police found more than $10,000, wrapped in plastic grocery bags, which had been buried under some houses.

Police say a considerable amount of money is still ­missing.

"We didn't get back nearly what was taken," said Cst. Paul Robinson from the local RCMP detachment in Sanikiluaq.

"In a small town like this you can't pull off a break-and-enter of that magnitude and not get caught," he said.

Despite the arrest of several individuals, the impact of the theft will continue to be felt in Sanikiluaq for months, said Mitiq co-op manager Dwayne Searle.

The money in the store safe on Oct. 20 included the co-op's operational float, Searle said.

Until this money is recovered, either through retail sales or insurance, Searle said he won't be able to buy anything from the community's 100-plus carvers.

The co-op usually buys about $25,000 of carvings a month.

"I no longer have money to buy carvings," Searle said. "If I only buy rocks, I don't have enough money to buy the pay checks or welfare checks. There will be no carving purchases until I can replace the money."

Johnny Kittosuk, 26, and Danny Paul Eyaituk, 23, have been charged in connection with the Oct. 20 break-and-enter and will appear in court in Sanikiluaq on Jan. 5, 2009.

Simeonie Tookalook, 28, has also been charged with break-and-enter and two counts of breach of probation. He will appear in Iqaluit Nov. 3.

In 2003, Tookalook was sentenced to 17 months for a break-and-enter, assault and failure to comply with a probation order after he and a friend broke into RCMP exhibit room in Sanikiluaq and stole a large quantity of marijuana, four 40-ounce bottles of vodka and some magic mushrooms.

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