Spiders, Meth And An Amputated Thumb Forced Man Into Life Of Crime

An Edmonton man will be the first person sentenced in Alberta for a so-called “straw purchasing” offence related to domestic weapons trafficking.

Justin Scott Shipowich, 38, pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of possession of restricted firearms for the purposes of trafficking.

Court heard that straw purchasing is when a person with a non-existent or minor criminal record buys weapons and then sells them to someone who wouldn’t legally be able to themselves.

According to an agreed statement of facts, Shipowich legally purchased 40 restricted firearms between June and September 2016, including 38 handguns and one semi-automatic rifle, worth about $27,300.

He admitted at least 39 of the guns were to sell to “unknown persons” for a profit.

Court heard that only five of the weapons have been recovered by police, including one that was seized following a robbery in Toronto.

“This is a fairly novel criminal activity in Canada,” said Crown prosecutor Adam Garrett, who argued that the unknown whereabouts of the remaining guns means this type of crime has serious safety implications, both locally and nationally.

Garrett said this case is the first of its kind in Alberta, though there have been a few similar offences in Ontario and British Columbia.

Shipowich also entered guilty pleas to one count of fraud over $5,000 for using a fake identity and credit card to purchase vehicle parts, as well as pleading guilty to trafficking cocaine and heroin to two undercover police officers.


Prosecutors and defence made a joint submission on sentencing Wednesday, arguing for eight years to be served in addition to the time Shipowich has spent in custody since his most recent arrest in January 2018.

Shipowich racked up the fraud and drug charges after his arrest on the weapons offence. His lawyer, Stacey Purser, said her client’s “incredible stupidity” in committing the crimes followed a downward spiral from a previous law-abiding, hardworking life into one of depression, financial strain and addiction.

Shipowich worked in the energy industry, and in 2013 was sent to Australia for a new job. However, a bite from a venomous redback spider hospitalized him and sent him back to Canada. Unable to work, he became depressed and began smoking meth, Purser said.

Though he was eventually able to work again, his bills were piling up and then, in September 2015, his thumb was amputated after a car fell on it when he stopped to assist an elderly man who was attempting to change a tire on Whitemud Drive. Again unable to work, his addiction resurfaced and he ultimately turned to crime to make ends meet.

Purser said her client’s early guilty plea is indicative of his remorse, and that he still has the support of his mother and other people who wrote letters on his behalf to the court.

Court of Queen’s Bench Chief Justice Mary Moreau is expected to sentence Shipowich on Thursday.

Shipowich was charged with two other men whose cases have yet to be heard in court.



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