The first of three people charged with an identify theft ring in Harrison Hot Springs was found not guilty by a provincial court judge in Chilliwack court on Tuesday.
Despite the fact that Jered Donovan Sims, 25, was living in a townhouse where more than 100 identity documents were found, and a magnetic card reader/writer used to forge credit cards was found in his closet, Judge Peter LaPrairie found there was reasonable doubt the items were legally in Sims’ possession.
It was May 3, 2018 when Agassiz RCMP executed a search warrant on the rented townhouse as part of a break-and-enter investigation after the absentee owner’s storage locker was found broken into.
The main tenants of the townhouse was Sims’ father Lorne Sims and Christina Stephan, as well as a child. Both the Sims father and son and Stephan are well-known to police with extensive criminal records.
In reading his decision, Judge LaPrairie repeatedly made note of the extreme messiness of the townhouse, a reality that would help establish reasonable doubt regarding the legal definition of possession.
“All of the witnesses testified that it was a mess and that was borne out by the photographs,” LaPrairie said reading his decision on August 27. “Items were strewn everywhere.
“To state that it was a mess is an understatement.”
Jered Sims’ father Lorne and Christina Stephan are charged in the same file, but are set for a five-day trial starting May 11, 2020. Jered had a two-day trial August 19 and 20 charged with possession of instruments to forge/falsify credit cards, dealing with identity document without lawful excuse, and identity theft.
In reading his decision on Jered Sims on August 27, Judge LaPrairie relayed the facts of the case, including that Jered moved into the townhouse in the 500-block of Lillooet Avenue with his pit bull around March 2018. It was a two-bedroom townhouse, and Lorne and Christina Stephan turned their child’s bedroom into a bedroom for Jered.
Also at the townhouse every day, and possibly living on a mattress in the storage area after moving in with Jered, was Christina’s brother Brian Stephan, one of the Fraser Valley’s worst prolific offenders and one of B.C.’s most prolific car thieves.
Brian Stephan does not face charges in connection with this case.
In all, police found more than 100 different identity documents, all associated with reported property thefts from across the Lower Mainland.
“In total, 103 different identity documents [were found] throughout the residence,” LaPrairie. said. “The police seized credit cards, debit, birth certificates, a death certificate, driver’s licences, employment records, all in the names of persons who were not tenants of the residence.”
Despite the overwhelming circumstantial evidence of the identity theft and credit card forgeries, Judge LaPrairie could not specifically link Jered to much of that evidence. In any drawer, closet or other location in the townhouse where blank cards, fake ID, or stolen ID was found, there wasn’t definitive evidence that solely linked Jered to confirm possession.
As for the magnetic card reader/writer found in his closet, other items were found in the closet that could have been tied to his father and Stephan, which left the judge with reasonable doubt on sole or even joint possession.
“I am not satisfied the only reasonable inference is that all the items are tied to Jered Sims,” LaPrairie said. “In fact, I am satisfied that items were stored in the closet that did not belong to Jered Sims.”
Sims appeared in court for the decision while out of custody. He had a shaved head, wore a T-shirt and athletic shorts and sat behind an articling student who appeared on behalf of his lawyer.
As Judge LaPrairie rendered the decision, not only did Sims offer up no reaction, he appeared to be falling asleep in his seat.
Sims has a long criminal history and his current legal challenges aren’t over as he is scheduled to go to trial on Dec. 13 facing a “K” file, which refers to intimate partner violence. He is charged with forcible entry and uttering threats.
His father, Lorne, aged 47, also has an extensive criminal past, and was convicted in 2017 of stealing from volunteer firefighters in Popkum while they were out on a call.