VANCOUVER -- Mounties in Surrey, B.C., say they've recovered $33,000 in stolen benefit cheques and two people have been arrested in connection to the thefts.

Police say the stolen cheques included payments from the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which the federal government issues to people who have lost work because of the novel coronavirus pandemic. There were also GST cheques, tax refunds and "cheques issued by other organizations," the RCMP said.

During a patrol, members of Surrey's COVID-19 compliance and enforcement team noticed three suspicious vehicles connected a Cloverdale home that allegedly had fake licence plates and operating permits. 

At about 9 p.m. on Saturday, members of the CCET tried to stop one of the vehicles as it pulled into the driveway. But the individual drove the vehicle into the backyard, trying to evade officers. The driver then fled while a female passenger was arrested. The male driver was chased, and was later arrested and brought into custody. 

While investigating the vehicle, a large amount of stolen items were recovered including the CERB cheques and several pieces of fake IDs. 

The man is still in custody, while the woman has been released and given an appearance notice for a future date. Charges have not yet been laid, but the investigation is still ongoing. 

"This team was created by the Surrey RCMP in collaboration with the City of Surrey to address all aspects of public safety as it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic," said acting community services officer Insp. Wendy Mehat in a news release. 

"Not only are we looking out for safety aspects like social distancing, but keeping our eyes out for criminals who would seek to take advantage of opportunities presented by the pandemic."

Mounties say the CCET has done more than 12,000 proactive checks on businesses, parks, beaches, recovery homes and faith-based locations since launching at the end of March.