Search warrant documents shed light on recovery of 54-40’s stolen guitars

Tip about storage Surrey storage unit’s tenant led police to Canadian rock band’s missing instruments

54-40’s Dave Genn performs with one of the guitars stolen from a vehicle parked in New Westminster in October. Police recovered five of the seven stolen guitars, but this guitar and another acoustic one are still missing | Submitted

It was back in October that Canadian rockers 54-40 got the devastating news of a theft of the band’s high-end, rare guitar collection from a vehicle parked overnight in New Westminster, but search warrant documents recently made available in BC Supreme Court detail how police made short work recovering most of the stolen gear.

According to Information to Obtain documents from October 2018, New Westminster police were tipped off by the owner of a self-storage business on 104th Avenue in Surrey the day after the theft of seven of the band’s guitars and other equipment worth between $50,000 and $100,000.

The man told police that he’d observed a tenant and others loading in the guitars on the facility’s CCTV system on October 5, 2018. The tenant, according to the search warrant materials, is a prolific offender with charges dating back to 1995, including multiple convictions for theft and drug offences. 

In December 2018, Surrey RCMP included the man on the force’s “naughty list” for outstanding charges of breaches of probation and driving while prohibited. He has not been charged with the theft and allegations in the search warrant documents have not been tested in court. Efforts to contact him through his former defence lawyers were unsuccessful.

Sgt. Chad Greig with Surrey RCMP told Glacier Media in a phone interview that the man remains at large, and that the 54-40 investigation is solely in the hands of the New Westminster Police Department.

Sgt. Jeff Scott, NWPD media relations officer, told Glacier Media in an interview Wednesday that while the trail has seemingly gone cold on the band’s still missing acoustic guitars, the force continues to investigate.

“I know we had possible suspects. We’re looking at who the [tenant] of the storage unit was,” Scott said. “If he has warrants for his arrest in other jurisdictions they’re looking for him and he may be evading arrest.... Just because somebody has an address listed doesn’t necessarily mean that’s where they’re staying.”

Scott added that a tip from the public led to the recovery of most of the band’s equipment, and could be instrumental in finding the items that remain missing.

“The majority of this is a success story, them getting their equipment back,” he said.  “Hopefully by bringing this to light, having it in the media, somebody will see them and report them.”

54-40 manager Allen Moy told Glacier Media in a phone interview that police have shared few details since recovering most of the gear shortly after it was stolen.

“Of course we were thrilled to get, at least, most of everything back and certainly the items that were most dear to us,” Moy said. “Everybody that I’ve talked to is astonished that we got anything back.”

Moy said the band most recently sought an update from police just before Christmas and said he’s under the impression that the investigation is ongoing.

“I was told that there was an arrest pending. I was kind of surprised by that because, I thought, well if they’ve recovered the guitars then how come there isn’t arrest? I didn’t get a name,” he said.

In the meantime, he said the band’s management has been dealing with insurance issues surrounding the theft while the trail seems to have gone cold on the still-missing instruments.

“We always had fairly secure measures and methods and someone let their guard down on our side,” Moy said. “It’s unfortunate, but It’s also incredibly fortunate that most of the equipment was returned.”