A man who helped store guns taken from a Yellowknife home in 2018 has been found guilty of possessing stolen property under $5,000.
The house, on Rivett Crescent, was ransacked during that year's Thanksgiving weekend in a high-profile crime that led to a police public appeal.
While not one of the burglars, François Parisella was seen by neighbours using his distinctive, lime green Dodge truck to tow an imported Audi car – used by one of the accused thieves – after it became stuck in front of the home, a Yellowknife court heard.
A total of 12 firearms were stolen that day, including a 9-mm handgun with a flashlight attachment and laser sight. The weapons were kept in safes, which were also stolen.
Other valuables, including diamonds, were reported stolen by the homeowners, who estimated a loss of $50,000 or more at the time.
During Parisella's trial over several days in July and November, the court heard the wheels of the Audi were still turning when Parisella arrived on Rivett Crescent to help out its driver – a relative of his wife.
The court heard the relative stated he had been partying at a nearby house, his car was stuck, and he needed a tow. The relative “had a drug problem and always was high,” the court heard.
However, a Rivett Crescent neighbour who watched the tow happen testified the Audi was full of household contents with "stuff sticking out at least one of the windows and, for sure, the driver’s side," according to a summary issued by Judge Garth Malakoe in a written decision published on December 18.
“The next morning, Mr Parisella’s wife phoned him and said that her truck was all over the news,” stated the decision.
The Audi was towed again a day later – this time by police – after being found broken down on a main road in Yellowknife. The court heard pieces of weapons, including arrows, a possible bow, and a soft gun case, were found inside. Also found were pill bottles with the names of family members from the burglarized house.
On October 9, 2018, Parisella and his wife went to the police detachment and gave a statement about their involvement in towing the car.
Forty minutes after giving the statement to the police, Parisella rented a storage locker at Diamond Mini Storage. Taking the stand in his own defence, Parisella, 38, testified the storage unit was needed as his wife had been asking him for months to tidy up equipment in the couple's yard. At the time, Parisella owned his own company, François Duct Cleaning.
On October 12, Parisella was arrested after he arrived at the Diamond Mini Storage yard. Police searched the storage locker and found firearms, ammunition, gun cleaning equipment, a gun safe, and rifle cases, alongside items known to be from Parisella’s garage, the court heard.
No one saw Parisella placing items in or taking items from the storage locker, stated judge Malakoe.
“Mr Parisella was aware that [his wife’s relative] had stolen the items from the residence and Mr Parisella was aware that [his wife’s relative] would either personally move these items to the storage locker or arrange to have others move these items to the storage locker,” stated Malakoe.
“In my view, the Crown has proved that Mr Parisella was in constructive possession of these items for the reasons indicated.
“François Parisella is guilty of possessing the stolen items contrary to section 354[a] of the Criminal Code.”
Parisella will be sentenced at a later date.
The ransacking of the home led to a police appeal for information on the whereabouts of a man named Beau Desire-Tesar, who was ultimately arrested in Westlock, Alberta and brought back to Yellowknife in November 2018.
At the time, RCMP revealed two other city residents — Todd Vatcher, 27, and Parisella – had been arrested and charged in connection with the theft. They joined Toufic Chamas, who previously had been arrested on October 19 during a traffic stop. Police said they found ammunition and a handgun in the vehicle.
At the time of Desire-Tesar’s arrest, police stated seven guns had been found, though some reported stolen from the Rivett Crescent home were still missing.
Vatcher, Chamas, and Desire-Tesar are still before the courts and are presumed innocent in this case.