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Man pleads guilty to robbing Manitoba liquor stores 55 times

A Manitoba Liquor Mart location in Winnipeg. Randall Paul/Global News

A 28-year-old man who Winnipeg police call one of the city’s most prolific thieves was sentenced to jail time Tuesday morning after pleading guilty to stealing from dozens of Manitoba liquor stores.

Tyrone McPherson pleaded guilty to stealing from 23 different liquor stores a total of 55 times between late 2018 and June 2019. He was arrested in August.

Judge Tony Cellitti sentenced McPherson to seven months in custody, plus an additional 30 days for an unrelated offence.

“It’s shoplifting essentially but it’s become more serious and the penalties are becoming more serious,” defence lawyer Kevin Sneesby told Global News.

READ MORE: ‘I just froze’: Manitoba Liquor Mart employee assaulted during robbery speaks out

Court heard McPherson would steal one to seven bottles of hard liquor each time, either alone, or as part of a group.

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None of the thefts involved violence and McPherson was not selling the stolen bottles, according to Sneesby.

“In his case, the theft was for his addiction,” Sneesby said. “He’s an alcoholic.”

READ MORE: Winnipeg legal expert says victims of Manitoba Liquor Mart thefts could sue

Manitoba’s liquor stores have seen a large rise in thefts since last year. Several brazen thefts have been caught on camera and shared online.

Crown attorney Sarah Murdoch told the court the public perception that thieves can get away with stealing liquor needs to change.

“The community is quite upset,” Murdoch said.

She told court a jail sentence was needed in order to send a message that thefts will not be tolerated.

“He (McPherson) seems to think this is acceptable,” Murdoch said.

With time already served, McPherson has 49 days remaining in his sentence. He will be banned from every Liquor Mart for a year after his release.

READ MORE: Manitoba commits to retail store theft summit after string of Liquor Mart incidents

Police have previously said the majority of Liquor Mart thefts can be attributed to a small number of people.

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New numbers posted to the Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries website show in a two week period last month, 56 people were arrested who are suspected of being involved with more than 900 incidents.

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