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Gun toting Lower Mainland man gets lengthy term for Okanagan Falls crime spree

FILE PHOTO - Matthew S. Soper is arrested at gunpoint at the Penticton Best Western in this May 7, 2015 photo after a crime spree involving several break and enters in the Okanagan Falls subdivision of Heritage Hills.
Image Credit: Courtesy of LaGuerrier Photography
July 19, 2016 - 4:30 PM

PENTICTON - A man from the Lower Mainland who indulged in a crime spree in Okanagan Falls faces significant jail time as a result.

Judge Gale Sinclair sentenced Matthew S. Soper, 30, to 57 months in jail today, July 19, in Penticton court on charges of possession of stolen property under $5,000, possession and use of a stolen credit card, carrying a loaded and restricted weapon, and breach of recognizance.

Soper and a number of accomplices were the subject of an intensive police investigation after residents in the Heritage Hills subdivision in Okanagan Falls reported a rash of break and enters on May 5, 2015.

Crown Prosecutor Kurt Froehlich told court several break and enters were reported to police that day. One of the victims, a single woman living on her own, had her residence broken into and her purse and jewellery stolen. Shortly after the thefts, she discovered her credit and bank cards had been used to make 16 unauthorized transactions in two accounts, totalling $6,000.

A photo of Soper was extracted from surveillance video at one of the businesses involved and circulated amongst the RCMP.

The following day, a Surrey RCMP member identified Soper, who was well known to Surrey police, as the man in the photo.

A number of Surrey RCMP came to Penticton to assist local police in locating Soper. He was spotted at the Best Western Inn in Penticton on May 7. Soper was placed under surveillance and when he was seen exiting his room he attempted to flee on foot when confronted by police, throwing a handgun away as he ran. He was quickly intercepted by a police dog and brought to the ground, where a short struggle ensued before his arrest.

A search of his person revealed a can of bear spray tucked into his pants. He also had a stolen police badge out of Vancouver around his neck, in addition to credit cards belonging to the Okanagan Falls woman.

A search of two hotel rooms rented by Soper’s female accomplice revealed suitcases purchased with the stolen credit cards and numerous personal effects. The handgun was located, and found to have been stolen from a Surrey residence on April 25, 2015. The loaded, semi-automatic weapon was also categorized as a restricted weapon.

Soper was on bail at the time of the thefts, and has been in custody since his arrest May 7, 2015.

The Okanagan Falls woman victimized by Soper took the stand to issue her victim impact statement. She told court she spent several sleepless nights following the thefts, suffering post traumatic stress disorder-like symptoms that resulted in her attending the hospital emergency ward a few days later. She said the thefts resulted in her moving to Calgary and delaying her retirement by six months. She continues to live in fear of retribution from Soper for testifying against him.

Froehlich noted Soper’s lengthy criminal record of 72 prior convictions, calling it “a significant and aggravating record.”

He asked Judge Sinclair to sentence the Soper to 60 to 65 months in jail.

Defence lawyer Brian Coleman said his client had no history of violent behaviour, attempting to assure the victim she had no fear of retribution. He said his client had a difficult childhood, never knowing his father and raised by a mother with bipolar disorder. He turned to drugs which has been an issue ever since.

Coleman said his client never had any sinister intentions for the gun, unable to offer an explanation as to why he was carrying it. Calling Crown’s request “far in excess of what’s necessary,” he looked to the judge to issue a sentence of less than two years and a probationary term in order to keep his client out of a federal jail.

Soper, who appeared via video, apologized to his victim, saying, “I know my word doesn’t mean much to you, but you’ll never see me again. I’m really sorry. I don’t see the result of my actions.”

Judge Sinclair called Soper’s actions “property crimes fueled by that insidious drug methamphetamine,” noting Soper was a self-admitted user.

The judge also took exception to Soper’s possession of a loaded, restricted handgun.

“You only have to look at what’s going on in the U.S. to see the problems with proliferation of handguns,” he said.

Judge Sinclair handed down a sentence of 48 months on the weapons charge, and an additional nine months on the remaining charges.

With time served, Soper has 35 months remaining in his jail term.

“Good luck to you sir, I hope you can get that drug monkey off your back,” Judge Sinclair said.

Soper also faces other unrelated charges in Vancouver.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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