Vernon's 'Mission Impossible' robber gets an assist to get his life together | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Vernon's 'Mission Impossible' robber gets an assist to get his life together

Video footage of a suspect robbing the Vernon Cash Stop Loans store on April 24, 2017.
Image Credit: Contributed
August 25, 2020 - 6:30 AM

A Vernon man who, in a "Mission Impossible-type robbery," crashed through the ceiling of Cash Stop Loans before pointing a gun at an employee and threatening to shoot her, has been sentenced to two years, less a day, so he can continue to get his professional welding ticket. A sentence one day longer would mean he would be transferred to federal jail, where his welding aspirations may not be met.

Andrew Robert Pigott, born 1980, appeared by video at Vernon courthouse today, Aug. 24, to be sentenced for numerous robberies, including another one where he used bear spray on two Subway employees. The break-ins and robberies all took place in Vernon throughout 2017.

His actual sentence was six-and-a-half years in prison, but he has already served the equivalent of two-thirds of that sentence while in custody awaiting resolution of all the files. 

The court heard Pigott gained access to Cash Stop Loans through the building's air conditioning duct. On April 24, 2017, an employee arrived at the store first thing in the morning when Pigott crashed through the ceiling wearing a balaclava and brandishing what appeared to be a handgun.

Cash Stop Loans owner Sarah Craddock told in March 2018 "it was a Mission Impossible type robbery."

Crown prosecutor Margaret Cissell told the court Pigott then ordered the employee to open the safe and he emptied the contents of the cash drawer. Pigott then ordered the employee to hand over her purse, which she refused.

"He told her to stop screaming or he'd shoot her," Cissell said.

Sometime during the robbery, there was a struggle and the employee ripped off Pigott's balaclava. He then fled on a bicycle leaving his backpack at the scene. As well as pry bars, the bag was found to contain duct tape and zip ties. B.C. Provincial Court Judge Dennis Morgan described the contents of the backpack as "disturbing." The handgun used turned out to be a "very realistic" looking BB gun.

Cissell said Pigott stole $24,811 from the safe, although most of the money was in cheque form. The amount of cash stolen was not disclosed.

The court heard how the robbery had had a "significant" effect on the employee who later quit the job and went off work for an extended period of time.

Separately, the court heard that three weeks or so before Piggott robbed Cash Stop Loans, he broke into his partner's neighbour's home while the couple was at the hospital having their first child. Pigott then "trashed" their home including a crib and the area set aside for the new baby, and stole a $6,000 wedding ring, their passports, and some liquor. He also ate a popsicle from the freezer.

Judge Morgan said Pigott would have known they were at the hospital having the baby.

"What should have been a very positive and happy moment in their lives bringing home their firstborn, he made it a very negative experience," Judge Morgan said. While the passports were recovered, the wedding band was not. The popsicle stick, however, contained Pigott's DNA which police used to match him to the robbery.

Lastly, the court heard that in September 2017 Pigott robbed the 27 Street Subway in Vernon.

The Crown said Pigott walked into the Subway at 10:50 a.m. and demanded money. The two staff working refused and Pigott then walked around the counter and took the contents of the till – around $150. He then pepper-sprayed the two employees.

Judge Morgan said it "wasn't necessary from anybody's perspective" to pepper spray the employees. Days later, Pigott was arrested and has remained in custody ever since. Details of how he was arrested were not read out in court.

While Pigott was due to go to trial, he pleaded guilty to a multitude of the charges instead.

The Crown and defence lawyers, in a joint submission, requested Pigott serve six-and-a-half-years jail time, less one day, for the offences.

The court heard Pigott grew up in Surrey and quit school in Grade 8. He started using heroin when he was 18 years old and had seven prior convictions for break and enter, and a criminal record that went back to when he was 18. He has been diagnosed with ADHD and it was suspected he may have fetal alcohol syndrome.

"His offending is very much related to his drug use," Defence lawyer Courtenay Simmons said.

After being released from prison in 2006 – following a two-and-a-half-year sentence – Pigott managed to keep his record clean until 2014 when he was charged with possession of a controlled substance. He had not been charged with another offence until the robberies in 2017.

"He certainly has the desire and the ability to remain sober," Simmons said.

Pigott worked in construction for several years and stayed off drugs, Morgan was told. Ultimately, he lost his job and had his savings stolen – although the court did not hear how – and he relapsed into addiction.

Judge Morgan said it was mitigating that Pigott had previously spent so many years out of the criminal justice system. Pigott had been on methadone for three years and learned to weld while in custody. He now had enough welding hours to sit his welding exam.

Both lawyers agreed that as Pigott had spent almost three years in custody prior to being convicted, and with credit for time already served, a sentence of another two years less one day would allow him to remain in the same provincial jail and continue with his welding. The end goal was to have a job lined up for when he was released. A longer sentence would see him transferred to a federal jail where he may not be able to carry on with the welding program.

"If we are setting Mr. Pigott on the track for success... (this sentence) will assist with rehabilitation," Simmons said.

Judge Morgan told Pigott not to abandon the welding program if he happened to be transferred to another prison.

"I'm confident I'm able to do it," Pigott told the judge. "I've been an excellent inmate here."

He was also sentenced to 36 months of probation and is under a lifetime firearms ban.

Pigott also had two charges of robbery and disguising his face to commit an offence stayed by the Crown. The offences took place in the weeks surrounding the other offences but details of what these charges related to were not read out in court.

Judge Morgan said he would not order Pigott to write to the victims with an apology, but if he wanted to, he should send the letters to the Crown prosecutors and they would check to see if the victims would accept an apology.

Video footage captured the suspect crashing through the ceiling.
Video footage captured the suspect crashing through the ceiling.
Image Credit: Contributed

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 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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