The "bagman" in an Edmonton bogus lottery scam that bilked $368,000 from vulnerable U.S. seniors was handed a 26-month prison term yesterday.
Stephen Sutherland, 43, swore under his breath as a court constable led him away after his plea for a conditional sentence to be served in the community was rejected.
Provincial court Judge Allan Lefever ruled it was necessary to put Sutherland behind bars, saying "predation on the elderly" requires denunciation.
Sutherland pleaded guilty yesterday to fraud over $5,000.
According to an agreed statement of facts, Sutherland and Brian Thompson, 44, were involved in defrauding elderly U.S. residents between June 2001 and August 2002.
Thompson, who was given a three-year prison term on Aug. 6, was described as the mastermind of the scam and court heard he would use a cellphone to call victims and tell them they had won a lottery in Canada.
Thompson would tell the victims that to access their winnings, they would have to pay "fees" to either Canada Customs, Revenue Canada or a courier company and he would direct them to wire the money to Edmonton.
Then, either Thompson, Sutherland or others would pick up the cash at various Money Mart locations.
"Upon receipt of funds, Thompson would again phone the victims with further fraudulent requests for fees. Such calls continued until the victims were unable or unwilling to send any more money," said the statement of facts.
A total of 94 victims were defrauded of $368,162.71 in 112 money transfers. Sutherland picked up the money in 39 of the transactions.
Sutherland was arrested Nov. 13, 2002, after a joint RCMP-FBI investigation. Prosecutor Bill Pinckney said police played a tape for Sutherland of one of the calls Thompson had made to a desperate woman and he started crying.
None of the money was recovered.
Defence lawyer Darin Slaferek told court Sutherland has recently been working for a telemarketing firm.
Sutherland said he was hooked on crack cocaine at the time and didn't know the extent of the scam.
Court heard one victim, an 80-year-old North Carolina woman who was swindled out of $17,397, had to sell her burial plot to scrape up the cash to send the "fees."