Rick Choponis saw a Langley Advance Times story online and photos about Surrey RCMP executing a warrant at a Langley City property on Friday and believes he spotted some of his stolen possessions in the pictures.
In early January, Choponis and his wife had about $100,000 worth of personal and work possessions stolen, and have since been victims of identity theft and cybercrimes.
The RCMP was at a home in the 5300 block of 200th Street midday March 8 executing a warrant related to a property crime in Surrey, said Surrey RCMP Cpl. Elenore Sturko.
On Jan. 1, Choponis and his wife moved from Alberta to South Surrey to expand his business, Ageneral Contracting Roofing Solutions, to B.C. They then returned to Alberta to finish a work project.
“On Jan. 8 or 9, the property manager asked ‘Did you leave the doors open in your house?’”
The couple drove 11 hours back from Alberta to find that everything had been stolen and the house was a mess.
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Few people knew of their moving plans.
“Somehow they knew that we weren’t there,” he said of the criminals. “Even my own employees didn’t know I was moving all my stuff over the holidays.”
Choponis estimates that $100,000 worth of property was stolen from the house, shed and work trailer. Taken were his car, which was bear sprayed, five computers, business papers, generators, a large amount of tools, furniture, rare guitars, and more. He said police told him very little of his property has been recovered.
But it’s been the length of time since the crime that has Choponis the most irate.
The couple has been dealing with both personal and business-related identity theft and cybercrimes using their stolen technology and their personal information.
“We had a heck of a time,” he said.
For instance, he was able to track the use of his computers and provided the information to police, but nothing was done at the time and the criminals had ample time to do more harm, he said.
“Within the first hour of me coming back [to B.C.]… I was getting pinged off the computer, that my [stolen] computer has gone online,” he said.
He’s so frustrated with what’s happened since the break and enter that he met with South Surrey MLA Gordie Hogg on Monday, March 11 to lobby for changes so people can protect themselves from cybercrime.
“He said it was something he would be bringing to Ottawa,” Choponis said of Hogg.
The business owner called this a “broken system” that allows criminals to steal IDs and change people’s lives so easily and noted that it impacts many Canadians.
Choponis noted that he would contact companies when his accounts were hacked or impacted only to be told they would not provide him information without police paperwork in place and that takes weeks to arrange.
That’s despite the fact that he’s given them permission to provide his information to the police as part of this investigation.
He said the companies allowed him to be victimized more than necessary because of the delays.
“[The criminals] got into my bank account,” he noted. “They changed my Bell account. They changed the call answering on my Bell account. They got into my wife’s bank account.”
They tried breaking into his business accounts.
“One night it was 15 attempts to get into my bank account,” he said.
Someone got a bank account in his name. Someone applied for credit cards in his name, saying they worked for his company.
“It all keeps coming from the same IP address,” Choponis noted.
The thieves tried to transfer $400 from his wife’s bank account to PayPal. The online payment firm sent out a security warning and the couple was able to stop the money transfer.
It will take a long time to put their personal and professional lives back together.
Choponis said this is clearly an organized effort and he wants to see more done to stop criminals from preying on Canadians.
“I’d sure like to put an end to this organized crime,” Choponis.
Sturko said this was a complicated investigation and is still ongoing.
The RCMP’s technology experts must still do more work on recovered equipment, for instance.
Further search warrants are required to look into the computer’s contents, she explained.
“It’s extremely frustrating for the person whose identity is stolen,” she added.
Under the warrant executed last week, the Surrey RCMP seized a variety of items including computers and other materials including stolen mail and stolen passports, Sturko said.