A Niagara Falls man became a hobby sleuth recently after several boxes of expensive comic books were stolen from his storage locker.
On January 31, thieves broke into several units of a warehouse on Dorchester Road, including a unit belonging to John Roma.
“My collection is something I worked for a very long time and was very proud of,” Roma said.
“When I learned that my storage unit had been broken into, it was devastating to hear.”
The culprits stole more than $10,000 worth of comic books.
After the heist, Roma visited local comic book stores and pawnshops and scoured the internet for his stolen possessions.
In February, he came across what he believed was one of his comics for sale on Facebook Marketplace.
“As a collector, you become aware of what is yours,” he said. “Looking for marks…something I know was mine and of course there was a comic book publication for sale and I knew one of the books was mine because it had particular marks on the title of the book.
Posing as a potential buyer, he made an appointment with the “seller” at a local cafe to negotiate a sale.
He asked the seller to bring all the comics she had because he was interested in bidding on multiple books.
When she arrived, carrying a suitcase and accompanied by a second individual, Roma quickly took a photo of the car and the license plate on her mobile phone.
“Then I greeted them at the door,” he recalls.
When the woman opened the suitcase, Roma knew instantly that the book on top of the pile was hers because it was the one with the specific inscriptions on the cover.
“I asked them, ‘How would you like to handle this?’ and you could tell by the expression on their faces that they thought they were going to make money.
Instead, he told them he had the books and was calling the police.
“They were both shocked and I was shaking, but shaking with anger because I was ready for a duel with the guy if he got in trouble.”
The duo were later arrested without incident.
In the Ontario Court of Justice in St. Catharines on Wednesday, Brandon Seguin pleaded guilty to multiple theft charges, including breaking and entering Roma’s storage unit, and was sentenced to 121 days from prison.
“It’s incredible the amount of loss he caused to members of his community,” said judge Joseph Nadel.
“I’m confident, to the extent that he was able to whip up anything that wasn’t otherwise salvaged, that he would get pennies on the dollar. It’s a huge mess. »
The court heard the 28-year-old defendant and an accomplice pull into the storage compound in a stolen car and drill a hole in a fence to gain access to the area.
In addition to the comic books, they also stole $5,000 in vinyl albums, an eight-track player, and a record player from another unit.
Seguin also pleaded guilty to several unrelated theft charges.
In November 2021, the court heard he stole a variety of items, including a laptop, gaming system and jewelry, from a motel room in Lundy’s Lane.
In February, he stole luggage and backpacks from a vehicle parked in a hotel parking lot.
All of the break-ins and the theft of the vehicle were captured by surveillance video, which showed the accused, who has multiple facial tattoos.
“He has no skill and no way to navigate the world other than by flying, which is unfortunate,” Judge said.
“We hope you have the ability to learn, and by that I don’t mean putting a mask on your head so they can’t see your tattoos.”
Roma believe that the sanction was too lenient.
“Is 120 days in prison enough? No, he doesn’t, but I don’t know the law and I must be happy that he is being punished. I need to find some peace in this.
While Roma was able to retrieve some of his comics without incident, police do not recommend that victims of crime follow in his footsteps.
“Members of the public who locate their stolen items for sale on an online marketplace should contact police to report their discovery,” said Niagara Regional Police Const. Phil Gavin.
“Members of the public could put themselves in danger by meeting a suspect and even more so by confronting them with the crime.”
This isn’t the first time thieves have made off with expensive comic books recently.
Earlier this month, two individuals were caught on surveillance cameras breaking down the front door of a store in Lundy’s Lane and snatching two boxes full of books worth $20,000.
Roma is still looking for the rest of his stolen comics, which include copies of Wolverine, X-Men, Daredevil, and Fantastic Four.