The Champagne Gang


208 pages
Contains Photos
ISBN 1-895629-97-7
DDC 364.16'2





Reviewed by Louis A. Knafla

Louis A. Knafla is a professor of history at the University of Calgary,
the co-editor of Law, Society, and the State: Essays in Modern Legal
History, and the author of Lords of the Western Bench.


The Champagne Gang tells the story of four young men who, over an
18-month period in 1994–95 committed more than 120 store robberies. It
wasn’t until April 1996 that they were tracked down and arrested. As a
result of a plea bargain, these comfortably middle-class youth were
sentenced to two years less a day in a correctional centre where they
had access to the pleasures of hard liquor, hash, and gambling. No
concerted attempt was made to locate what remained of the millions of
dollars they had collected from their crimes.

Their modus operandi was quite simple: case out large box drug stores,
go in through the roof at night, and clean out the money, stamps, and
lottery tickets. Most of their hits seem to have been in the $30,000
to$60,000 range. We learn as much about their drinking, dress, and
sexual exploits as we do about their crimes.

There are gaps in Mercer’s account. At one point, we are told that
the gang’s leader broke his arm; how he got it set and how it affected
his work is never discussed. Where the gang stashed its ill-gotten gains
also remains a mystery.

The Champagne Gang is based on interviews with police officers and the
culprits themselves. The latter, who were released in the summer of
1998, have vowed that they will never become paupers. Their sense of
accomplishment, which comes across strongly in this book, should keep
them far from the unemployment and welfare rolls.


Mercer, Jeremy., “The Champagne Gang,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 13, 2024,