A Langley City house where guns, ammo, and stolen credit cards were found tucked away behind furniture during a police raid last year was targeted for a civil forfeiture claim by the B.C. government.
When the house in the 5300 block of 200th Street sold earlier this year, a judge ordered that $150,000 of the proceeds go into provincial coffers, following a consent order signed by the owners.
One co-owner, Rene Berlinguette, has a lengthy history with local police and the courts, and that history often led investigators to the home.
The claim filed by the province’s director of civil forfeiture last year laid out a list of occasions on which police from Langley and Surrey have arrived at the property in search of a suspect or stolen property.
In 2014, the Surrey RCMP sought Berlinguette as a suspect in a fraudulent vehicle purchase, and found the vehicle at that house.
On Jan. 10, 2017, the Langley RCMP found a stolen Mitsubishi Eclipse, a stolen trailer, and various other stolen items there.
Langley Mounties were back on April 3 that year investigating an $880 fraud on a Telus account.
On Oct. 16, 2018 the Ontario Provincial Police called in local investigators after gun parts had been bought and shipped to the property using a fraudulent credit card.
A search found credit cards and personal information, an embosser, ammunition, gun parts, lock picking tools, brass knuckles and a machete, a bulletproof vest and a 9mm pistol.
Then on Jan. 11, 2019, the Surrey RCMP were back, this time after an IP addressed associated with the property tried to gain access to financial records following a break in.
The most recent investigation began with Langley Mounties looking into a burglary in Brookswood on May 8, 2019.
Two computers, chequebooks, credit cards, jewelry and a jewelry box, and various personal items were all stolen.
Several purchases totalling about $3,000 were made using the victim’s bank account.
One of them was alcohol, bought allegedly by Berlinguette. Since he was on probation and banned from buying alcohol, the RCMP searched the house.
According to the statement of claim, they found the jewelry box in Berlinguette’s bedroom, along with stolen cheques and credit cards.
In the house’s family room, they found three handguns and several boxes of ammo, two rifles and a stolen license plate were tucked behind couches in the television room, and a stolen motorcycle with stolen plates was in the boarded-up carport.
Berlinguette was arrested, and on June 1, he was found guilty of fraud and unauthorized use of credit card data. A possession of stolen property charge was stayed by the Crown.
But in the year since his arrest, the civil forfeiture campaign had begun. Civil forfeiture targets items that have been purchased or used in the commission of a crime, and the province alleged that Berlinguette had both used the house for criminal activities, and had paid his share of the mortgage or other bills for the property through proceeds of crime.
Berlinguette co-owned the house, formerly his late mother’s, jointly with his brother and sister. They were in the process of selling the house for re-development of the neighbourhood by this spring, with a $1.19 million proposed sale price.
In court documents filed by the siblings in response to the civil forfeiture lawsuit, they said they “had no knowledge whatsoever of any unlawful activity that the defendant Rene Berlinguette may have been engaged in.”
They also denied that their brother had ever contributed significantly to the property’s mortgage or other bills.
The siblings then claimed that three separate searches of the property were violations of the Canadian Charter of Rights, and that the entire lawsuit therefore rested on “unlawful police conduct,” and that basing the lawsuit off those searches was an abuse of process.
However, by Feb. 12, the owners of the home signed a consent order with the court. They agreed that the government would receive $150,000 of the proceeds from the sale of the home.