British Columbia

Fugitive in high-profile Toronto heist nabbed in Vancouver sting

A man who fled Ontario days before he was supposed to be sentenced for his role in a high-profile armoured car company heist has been caught and convicted of weapons offences in Vancouver.

Devon Hartwell fled Ontario days before sentencing for a $700,000 inside-job armoured car theft

Devon Stanford Hartwell fled Toronto days before he was set for sentencing in the INKAS robbery. He was caught in Vancouver. (Toronto Police Service)

A man who fled Ontario days before he was supposed to be sentenced for his role in a high-profile armoured car company heist has been caught and sentenced for weapons offences in Vancouver.

Devon Stanford Hartwell was led into court Tuesday looking every bit as glum as he did in the photo Toronto police handed the media more than a year ago when they pleaded with the public for help finding the 31-year-old fugitive.

Hartwell was one of two brothers who stole more than $700,000 in a brazen inside-job armed robbery at the headquarters of INKAS Security Services in April 2013.

He cut off his tracking bracelet and skipped bail in February 2015.

Last month, he pleaded guilty along with a co-accused to weapons offences which occurred after they were caught in a police sting on their arrival on the West Coast 

Crown prosecutor Brendan McCabe filled in the rest of the story at Hartwell's sentencing.

On a train bound for nowhere ...

Police got a tip in March 2016 that a pair of men from Ontario were bound for B.C. aboard a train and intending to engage in some serious criminal activity.

Their names were Halgurd Bahramiwand and Cedric Fougere. But police would later learn that Fougere was an alias for Hartwell.

Toronto Police Insp. Mike Earl shows photos of some of the items seized in the Inkas robbery investigation. CBC

B.C.'s Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit targeted the men, placing a couple of undercover officers on the VIA train when it stopped in Kamloops.

They soon befriended Hartwell and Bahramiwand, who told them they needed a hotel when they got to Vancouver and a rental car.

As it turned out, the undercover officers had a few suggestions.

McCabe said the officers drove Hartwell and Bahramiwand to the Westin Bayshore, where they helped them find a room. Hartwell also gave the officers a Quebec driver's licence, so they could help him rent a car.

A surveillance team then watched the two men as they went to Canadian Tire, purchasing duct tape, zap straps, construction gloves and a variety of tools. They called the undercover officers shortly after to ask for help finding guns.

According to McCabe, Hartwell and Bahramiwand claimed they were on the West Coast to do business with someone who was in the marijuana trade. They wanted small weapons that might fit into a man purse.

The undercover officers delivered the guns in the parkade of the hotel.

The suspects took possession of the weapons. Then, the officers said they needed to get the bullets. That's when an emergency response team arrived.

Hartwell fled to the seawall, where he was ultimately caught by a police dog. Bahramiwand was arrested on the spot.

Sentenced to 7 years 

Hartwell was recently sentenced to seven years for his part in the INKAS robbery.

His older brother, Aundre Hartwell, was an employee at the security firm; he provided the inside information needed to carry out the heist.

According to the elder Hartwell's Ontario Court of Justice sentencing, the thieves stole more than $700,000 from a cage where cash from the Toronto Transit Commission was stored for the night.

Police observed the brothers going on a shopping spree in the weeks after the robbery. Some of the cash was eventually recovered, but well over half a million dollars remains unaccounted for.

Aundre Hartwell was sentenced to six years in jail last April after pleading guilty to robbery with a firearm and forcible confinement of a guard.

In court Tuesday, Devon Hartwell's lawyer, Ricky Bal, said that prior to the heist, the brothers had planned to start their own security company, spending thousands of dollars to set up a business.

But then changes to regulations scuttled their plans.

"They were told too bad, so sad, all the work you've done was for nothing. The $50,000 debt trying to establish this business was all finished," Bal said.

"That left Mr. Hartwell angry at the establishment, angry at being left with nothing, followed by a series of bad decisions which leads him here today."

Bal said Hartwell's sister died of cancer shortly before he was supposed to be sentenced for his role in the INKAS robbery. He hoped to move the sentencing date, and when that didn't happen, he absconded.

Both Hartwell and Bahramiwand pleaded guilty to one count of possessing prohibited firearms without a licence. 

Bahramiwand is also 31. He has no prior criminal record; his family came to Canada as Kurdish refugees when he was a child. His father operates a successful pizza business in the Gatineau area.

Hartwell received a sentence of two-and-a-half years, less 308 days for time served since his arrest last spring. The time is consecutive to his sentence for the INKAS robbery.

Bahramiwand received two years, less 57 days for time served.