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Firefighter found guilty of possessing stolen jetboat

A Prince George firefighter has been found guilty of possession of stolen property over $5,000.

A Prince George firefighter has been found guilty of possession of stolen property over $5,000.

Provincial court judge Reginald Harris concluded Friday that Benjamin Taffy Williams, 39, knew the jetboat and trailer he bought from a fellow firefighter were stolen items and displayed willful ignorance when he purchased them.

In reaching his conclusion, Harris found Williams knew they were well undervalued when he bought them and noted he paid for the purchase in cash and did not obtain a receipt or transfer papers.

Defence counsel had argued that if Williams knew they were stolen, he would not have stored them on his property in plain view from the road.

But Harris noted the boat had been substantially changed from its original appearance - the seats, fish finder, canopy, numbers and writing on the hull and practically all the paint were gone as was the identification plate.

"With all of these changes, it is conceivable that a person would not feel it necessary to conceal the boat and the boat had been concealed by its identity being changed," Harris said.

Williams' story for why the boat's ignition was missing - that it was either stolen when the boat was in his yard or in police custody - was not accepted by Harris who found it made more sense for it to have been taken out when it was stolen from its original owner.

Harris also did not agree with Williams' reasons for his actions on the day of his arrest.

Police had called Williams to say they had received a tip that stolen items might be on his property and arranged to drop by in the early afternoon to take a look.

When Williams got off the phone, he quickly hooked the boat and trailer to his truck and left his 6600-block Bench Drive property. Police, who had been keeping an eye on his property, arrested him a short time later.

Williams had contended he made the move out of panic and stress but Harris did not buy the explanation. "He is an emergency responder who works in high-stress situations all the time," Harris said. "Granted, the situation was different, but it was not one with immediate risk."

Instead, Harris said, Williams fled with the boat and trailer because he knew they were stolen.

Williams bought the boat and trailer for $9,500 from Jeremy Kostyshyn, who continues to face charges of trafficking in stolen property.

Jetboats of that brand and model went for $30,000 to $40,000 new, and when it was returned to its owner in Fort St. John, he sold it for $18,000 despite its poor condition, the court had heard.

Sentencing will occur at a later date.