British Columbia

Man who stole 150 wigs, some for kids with cancer, gets 3½-year sentence

Martin Wiegelt was sentenced for the break-in to Eva & Co. Wigs and two other break-ins after pleading guilty. Police have called him one of Vancouver's most prolific property offenders with over 100 criminal convictions since 1987.

With credit for time served, Martin Wiegelt left with 505 days — almost 17 months — in jail

Martin Weigelt in a photo from more than 10 years ago. Weigelt pleaded guilty to stealing 150 wigs in September and was sentenced in mid-January. ((CBC))

A man who smashed into a Vancouver wig shop and stole dozens of wigs, including some for children fighting cancer, has been sentenced to 3½ years imprisonment.

Martin Wiegelt, 53, was sentenced on Jan. 13 at the Downtown Community Court in Vancouver for the Sept. 2018 break-in to Eva & Co. Wigs and two other break-ins. He pleaded guilty in Sept. 2019.

The wig heist saw him abscond with 150 hairpieces worth about $2,500 each. About 15 of them were intended for patients at B.C. Children's Hospital with conditions that involve hair loss, such as cancer or alopecia.

With credit for time served he is left with 505 days — almost 17 months — in jail.

Police have called Weigelt one of Vancouver's most prolific property offenders with over 100 criminal convictions since 1987.

The wigs were made from real human hair and valued at approximately $2,500 each. (Vancouver Police)

"Hopefully after this fairly lengthy period of time in custody you'll turn into a different direction and we won't see you again," Judge Thomas Gove said as sentencing concluded.

'It was heartbreaking'

Reached for comment Friday, Eva & Co. manager Frances Rae said she was satisfied with the sentence but the crime was devastating.

Frances Rae, manager of Eva & Co. Wigs, poses for a photograph at the store. She said the crime was a major blow to children already facing adversity. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

"I had just gone through the process of calling [the children] and telling them [the wigs] are here, they're ready, we're finished and they were so excited," Rae said.

"then I had to call them all back and tell them, sorry, we were robbed and they were gone. It was heartbreaking. I had kids on the phone that burst into tears. I had parents crying."

Rae said about 35 of the wigs were found in a black garbage bag in the hallway of a Downtown Eastside hotel. 

A woman at the hotel discovered the wigs and called police after hearing about the robbery in the news. 

Due to fears about contamination, however, they couldn't be given to clients.

Rae said the wigs for sick children are provided through a charity called Wigs for Kids. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Smashed through store wall

CBC News listened to an audio recording of the sentencing provided by the court.

Crown counsel Louise Gauld described the circumstances of the wig shop break-in, saying it was "more aggravated" than the other two break-ins.

On Sept. 7, 2018, Weigelt had pried open the door to a juice bar on West Broadway near Laurel Street. He then used a crowbar to smash through the drywall between the juice bar and the wig shop, one unit over.

Once inside, Weigelt grabbed black garbage bags, gathered up the wigs and escaped through the back door, setting off an alarm. He left behind items that were traced back to him by DNA analysis.

Prosecutor Gauld acknowledged Weigelt likely didn't know some of the wigs were intended for sick children but said it was "a tragic side effect of his behaviour."

Troubled past, substance abuse issues

Defence attorney Mark Swartz said Weiglet felt "completely horrible" once he found out some of the wigs were for children. 

He described his client's "tumultuous" upbringing and efforts to change.

He grew up with a father who was physically and verbally abusive. He may have some learning issues. He suffers from "significant" anxiety and depression which has exacerbated his substance use.

He remains traumatized, Swartz said, from a 2006 incident where Vancouver police photographed him, appearing injured, in the department's lockup after an arrest. 

Swartz said Weigelt completed some rehabilitation programs while in custody. 

"My past does not determine my future," Weigelt said. "From this point on I just hope I make the right decisions and not let myself down."

The sentence was a joint submission by Crown and defence. After jail time he will be on probation for a year.

CBC Vancouver's Impact Team investigates and reports on stories that impact people in their local community and strives to hold individuals, institutions and organizations to account. If you have a story for us, email impact@cbc.ca.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Liam Britten

Digital journalist

Liam Britten is an award-winning journalist for CBC Vancouver. You can contact him at liam.britten@cbc.ca or follow him on Twitter: @liam_britten. Liam contributes to CBC Vancouver's Impact Team, where he investigates and reports on stories that impact people in their local community.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now