Winnipeg police seize more than $500K worth of stolen goods after pawned watch raises red flag

An engraved watch swiped from someone’s home during a break-in and later sold at a pawn shop was all it took to raise a red flag for Winnipeg police last month, leading to an investigation that netted a cache of stolen goods worth more than $544,000.

It was the engraving on that watch that helped investigators determine it was stolen and whose it was — and once they realized that, police also noticed that the 53-year-old man who pawned the watch had previously been arrested for theft-related offences, Insp. Jennifer McKinnon said at a news conference on Tuesday.

“Sometimes what starts as a simple property crime report balloons into a much more complex investigation,” McKinnon said, adding police believe the man was responsible for receiving and distributing stolen items. “I think we’ve opened up Pandora’s box here.”

Investigators later got warrants to search the 53-year-old man’s home on William Avenue, in the city’s West Alexander area, and a city storage facility on June 26. 

They found upwards of 1,000 cellphones, almost 100 bicycles and more than a dozen high-end watches, along with jewelry, clothing, cameras and related equipment, tablets, laptops, power tools, a riding lawnmower, four flutes and a piccolo, McKinnon said. 

Police also seized an air conditioner and a television still in their boxes, plus two long guns with sawed-off barrels, various airsoft guns and ammunition. 

They also found also 711 grams of methamphetamine, 173 grams of fentanyl and nearly 70 grams of cocaine, McKinnon said. 

A room with boxes full of items and several bicycles.
Police said the seizure included almost 100 bicycles, as well as other items like jewelry, clothing, cameras and related equipment, tablets, laptops, power tools, a riding lawnmower, four flutes and a piccolo. (Submitted by Winnipeg Police Service)

The 53-year-old man was charged with a series of offences related to weapons, drug trafficking and possessing stolen property — as well as several outstanding warrants, which included two counts of possessing stolen property.

McKinnon said police continue to investigate and suspect there could be more arrests made in connection to the stolen items seized. 

She also urged people to document information like serial numbers or unique engraving on valuable items so that if they’re stolen and recovered, police will be able to return them. 

Items seized as part of last month’s investigation will likely come up in the police force’s regular unclaimed goods auction if no one comes forward with information proving the goods belonged to them.

McKinnon also encouraged people to register their bikes for free with the 529 Garage service, which police partnered with earlier this year.

Anyone who doesn’t have a serial number for a unique bike that has been stolen but suspects it may have turned up in last month’s police seizure can contact the property crime unit to describe it and potentially get it returned, she said.