A Sunderland shop owner watched a burglary while it was in progress at his store using an app on his mobile phone.
Mark Robson and his accomplice caused £1,000 damage when they forced their way into the Cost Cutter store at Lakeside Village in Sunderland in the early hours of January 31 and filled a duvet cover with cigarettes and lager.
Newcastle Crown Court heard a resident who lived near the shop contacted the owner and told him his premises was under attack by masked men.
Using a mobile phone app, the owner, who had been in bed at home, was then able to view CCTV of the inside of his shop, which showed the two strangers causing damage while taking what they wanted.
The footage was played at Robson's sentence hearing.
Prosecutor Neil Pallister told the court: "It shows two males climbing over the counter, damaging a cigarette display area and taking packets of cigarettes from the display and putting them into a duvet cover."
The men also picked up cans of lager from a shelf before leaving.
The court heard their getaway driver had left the area when he realised they had been seen by the neighbour.
One of the raiders lifted a crowbar above his head, in the direction of the neighbour, before they made off.
Robson, of Baker Street, Houghton, was arrested nearby and pleaded guilty to burglary.
The other two men have never been caught.
The 37-year-old claimed he was ordered to get involved in the raid to settle a cocaine debt he ran up after sustaining a serious brain injury in a road crash.
Jamie Adams, defending, told the court: "His cronies involved in this burglary came to him and basically were saying you will expunge the debt.
"It was that kind of menace rather than an actual threat.
"He said nothing during police interview.
"He was threatened that his mother could be injured or he would be injured if he was to say anything to the police about who he had been involved with.
"That threat was carried out by way of having his left leg broken at the ankle.
"He is still having treatment."
Mr Adams said Robson, who no longer takes drugs, had a good employment ethic until his accident but has been left uncertain if he can work again.
Mr Recorder Mark McKone said he was "sceptical" about Robson's explanation for his involvement but suspended his 15 month jail term for two years.
The judge said Robson must abide by a six month night time curfew and added: "You were seen on CCTV footage, which shows a determined effort.
"You caused damage valued at £1,000 and stole cigarettes and cans of beer.
"The owner had to witnesses this when he viewed cctv on his telephone."