Cancer fraudster handed six-month jail term for duping donors

[The Accused] took $7,500 from people he duped into thinking he had cancer. On Thursday, a judge ordered him to pay every cent of it back to cancer patients who really need it.

Provincial court Judge Terry Semenuk also sentenced [The Accused] to six months in jail, but with credit for time spent in pretrial custody, he only has 68 days left to serve.

The real work will begin after that, when [The Accused] must earn enough money to make a court-ordered $7,500 donation to the Canadian Cancer Society while on probation for the next two years.

"A message needed to be sent to the public that if people defraud these charities, they will be treated harshly by the courts," Crown prosecutor Mike Ewenson said outside court.

[The Accused], 28, held a fraudulent silent auction as a cancer fundraiser last year, during which about $7,500 was raised in cash or donations by more than 100 people.

[The Accused] claimed he was battling brain cancer and needed money for treatments.

Instead of asking for their money back, Ewenson said the victims preferred to have any restitution go to the cause they thought they were helping.

"They wanted it to go to the Canadian Cancer Society, to help actual cancer patients," he said.

[The Accused] pleaded guilty last September to one count of fraud over $5,000, which Semenuk counted as a mitigating factor.

However, the judge said frauds such as [The Accused]'s undermine the work of legitimate charities, making it important to impose a punishment that will deter others.

"The offence was planned and deliberate. He faked having a cancerous brain tumour over a period of about 10 months, and his despicable deceit resulted in his obtaining $7,500, a significant amount of money," Semenuk said in a written judgment.

Police arrested [The Accused] in September, and he has been held in the Calgary Remand Centre since authorities returned him to the city.

Wearing blue jail coveralls and sporting a full beard, [The Accused] didn't address the court prior to sentencing.

"He has accepted the sentence," his lawyer, Joel Chevrefils, said outside court.

"He's looking forward to having an opportunity to make amends to the community."

Although [The Accused] still must pay restitution, Chevrefils said his client has already paid a high price in other ways.

Chevrefils acknowledged the nature of the crime created a high degree of public disgust and made [The Accused] a target of "jailhouse justice" - a severe beating by four inmates at the remand centre.

[The Accused] spent 11 days in hospital recovering from a broken nose, a concussion, lacerated spleen and several other injuries.

"This has been a very difficult lesson for him to learn," he said.

Semenuk's judgment noted [The Accused]'s crime has left him with "few friends and no support in the community."

[The Accused] was expelled from school for absenteeism in Grade 10, has attention deficit disorder and only limited job experience.

A pre-sentence report said [The Accused] has a personality disorder with anti-social traits and rated his risk of committing another fraud as "moderate to high."

Making amends could be challenging considering [The Accused]'s lack of support and limited prospects, but Chevrefils said his client is highly motivated.

"He's extremely scared and hopefully we'll never see him before the justice system again.

"It was a stupid thing to do. That's the bottom line."