Houston, TX – A man convicted of looting from a Walmart during Hurricane Harvey was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Thomas Gamelin was sentenced after a two-day trial, according to KTRK-TV.
According to the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, Gamelin stole a television and cigarettes from a Walmart during the height of the hurricane on Aug. 29, 2017.
At the time, Gamelin was on parole for a drug conviction, KTRK reported.
Police said that Gamelin, 38, used a Ford van to smash open the cart doorway. He climbed through the hole and took a television and tobacco products.
At the time, that Walmart store was closed due to the storm, USA Today reported.
A Houston Police officer was driving by that Walmart and spotted Gamelin’s Ford van. That police officer then saw Gamelin carrying a television.
The incident was also capture on Walmart’s surveillance video, according to the police. Gamelin’s heist came to a $5,228 value.
“Our city was in the midst of the worst natural disaster in its history, and the defendant saw that as the perfect opportunity to take advantage and try to make a profit,” Assistant District Attorney Joshua Raygor said, according to KTRK. “While so many people were coming together to help others, Thomas Gamelin was off on his own looting.”
When Hurricane Harvey hit, law officials warned of harsh consequences to those people who looted during the storm.
Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg stated that some habitual offenders who looted could face up to life imprisonment for a house burglary, the Houston Press reported.
Prosecuting thieves is a bold change of strategy for DA Ogg.
“We are going to push hard to make sure you don’t see the sunlight anytime soon,” Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said at the time, according to the Houston Press.
Nearly 200 people were arrested for looting in the Houston area and face extra-harsh charges, the Houston Press reported.