Former ICBC employee charged for accessing names in Justice Institute attacks

A former employee of the Insurance Corp. of British Columbia has been charged after a string of violent attacks on people associated with a justice training centre in New Westminster, B.C.

An earlier trial heard that 15 families across Metro Vancouver were subject to firebombings and shootings at their homes after a man who saw them park at the Justice Institute of B.C. tracked them down using information obtained from their licence plates.

The attacks were orchestrated by Vincent Cheung who was sentenced to 13 years in prison by a B.C. Supreme Court judge last July.

An investigation by the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit says 44-year-old Candy Rheaume has now been charged for fraudulently obtaining the names of the attack victims using the corporation’s computer services without authorization.

The earlier trail for Cheung heard that an employee of Insurance Corp. of B.C. had been fired after investigators found the person looked up the addresses of all the victims.

Police say Rheaume has no criminal record and is expected to appear in a provincial court on Feb. 15.

 

‘It’s a betrayal:’ former Calgary police officer charged with kidnapping

A former police officer is facing 11 criminal code charges that include kidnapping and obstruction of justice.

“These are serious criminal charges. Full stop,” Ray Robitaille, deputy chief of the Calgary Police Service, said Tuesday, November 15, 2016.

“That a member in uniform is accused of these crimes is deeply concerning _ 99.99 per cent of our police officers go out every day to earn the public’s trust and they work very, very hard to make sure Calgary’s a safe place,” he said.

“Any time this sort of behaviour surfaces, it’s a betrayal to all police officers and the public.”

Police say a man and a woman came forward in January alleging two cases of harassment.

An investigation revealed that the woman had been stopped in a Calgary parking lot in July 2015 for traffic violations and her vehicle was towed.

The officer drove the woman home, but she alleges she was confined in the back of a locked police vehicle for 3 1/2 hours.

The same police officer allegedly met the woman and her boyfriend six months later in front of their home, told the man to wait in his car and followed the woman into her house without permission.

The investigation also found the officer was using Calgary Police Service databases to obtain information about the complainants.

Robitaille said there was no suggestion the officer knew the woman before the 2015 traffic stop when he wrote her up for not having a valid driver’s licence or auto insurance. Nor was there any indication that stalking or sexual assault was involved.

Denis McHugh, 35, is charged with kidnapping, obstruction of justice, break and enter, breach of the peace, two counts of fraudulently obtaining a computer service and five counts of breach of trust.

McHugh resigned his position as constable earlier this month after eight years on the job.

“There’s nothing positive to say about this other than this individual will be answering these charges in a court of law where it’s appropriate,” said Robitaille.

“There’s a fairly comprehensive list of charges before you that outline very clearly what the facts in this matter are.”

McHugh is scheduled to appear in court Nov. 29.

 

Ontario nurse accused in deaths of 8 nursing home residents appears in court

A nurse accused of killing eight seniors at two long-term care homes in southwestern Ontario has had her case put over to Nov. 18 after a brief court appearance on November 2, 2016.

Elizabeth Wettlaufer, 49, was charged last week with eight counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of elderly residents at nursing homes in Woodstock, Ont., and London, Ont.

Police allege Wettlaufer used drugs to kill her victims between 2007 and 2014 while she worked at the facilities.

During the November 2, 2016 court appearance by video from the Vanier Centre for Women in Milton, Ont., Wettlaufer only spoke her name and said “that’s it?” before the brief hearing concluded.

Outside court, Wettlaufer’s lawyer, Brad Burgess, declined to comment on the case, saying: “anything I have to say, I’ll say in the courtroom.”

But the daughter of one of the alleged victims did talk and said her family asked for an autopsy from the coroner at the time of her father’s death, but was denied one.

Andrea Silcox told reporters her father, James Silcox, died in 2007 and she had concerns about his death at the time.

“My father was a good, strong man and because I work in long-term care myself, it just didn’t seem right,” she said.

Silcox said her sister asked the coroner at the time about an autopsy. She said her sibling was told “he lived in long-term care, he was 85 years old, so why bother.”

The coroner’s office has said that every long-term care home is obligated to report deaths of residents, but deaths are only investigated when someone has died as a result of violence, “misadventure,” negligence, misconduct, malpractice, “by unfair means,” from any illness not being treated by a medical professional, “suddenly and unexpectedly,” or “from any cause other than disease.”

In addition to Silcox, the victims in the case have been identified Maurice Granat, 84, Gladys Millard, 87, Helen Matheson, 95, Mary Zurawinski, 96, Helen Young, 90, Maureen Pickering, 79, Arpad Horvath, 75.

Horvath lived at a Meadow Park facility in London while the other seven alleged victims lived at the Caressant Care Woodstock Long-Term Care Home in Woodstock.

Last week, police said the investigation into the alleged murders was launched on Sept. 29. Wettlaufer was arrested last Monday and appeared in court for the first time last Tuesday.

A source familiar with the case told The Canadian Press police began investigating after Wettlaufer provided information to careworkers at a psychiatric hospital in Toronto.

Officials from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health alerted Toronto police that Wettlaufer shared information with hospital staff that caused them “concern,” a police source familiar with the investigation said.

The source said once Toronto police received the information from the hospital, officers interviewed Wettlaufer and found out that the alleged crimes had occurred outside Toronto police’s jurisdiction.

That’s when Toronto police passed the information to the Ontario Provincial Police and police forces in Woodstock and London, said the source.

Wettlaufer entered into a peace bond in early October as police feared she would “commit a serious personal injury” and had restrictions placed on her by a court.

She was required to “continue any treatment for mental health” with any physician to whom she was referred by her family doctor or “representatives of CAMH.”

Wettlaufer was also not allowed to possess or consume alcohol and had to obey a curfew and reside in either her apartment or with her parents in Woodstock between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m., except to attend alcoholics anonymous meetings, according to terms laid out in the peace bond.

She was also ordered not to possess insulin and was not allowed to work as a caregiver.

Records from the College of Nurses of Ontario show Wettlaufer was first registered as a nurse in August 1995 but resigned Sept. 30 of this year. She is no longer a registered nurse.

 

Attempted Fraud Claims

Filing five injury claims from a staged crash, falsely reporting the theft of tires from a truck, and an improperly insured, unsafe limo that went up in flames. These are some of the recent fraudulent and exaggerated claims handled by ICBC’s Special Investigation Unit (SIU).
“Auto insurance fraud and embellished claims take many forms,” said Chris Fairbridge, ICBC manager of the SIU. “When the facts just don’t seem to add up, we investigate.”
ICBC has completed more than 5,000 claims and driver licensing investigations so far in 2016.
Most claims are honest, but insurance industry studies estimate that fraudulent and exaggerated claims make up about 10 to 20 per cent of all claims costs. Applying those estimates means that fraud and exaggeration costs B.C. hundreds of millions of dollars each year or every ICBC policyholder more than $100 per year.
ICBC’s commitment to improving its detection and enforcement on fraud is expected to reduce its basic insurance claims costs by $21 million for policies written over the next year.
Here’s a sample of recent cases from ICBC’s claims fraud files.

A crash fit for the stage
Five people presented injury claims to ICBC after a two-vehicle crash in Surrey. The conflicting statements from the claimants, and the fact that the collision happened in the early morning hours, prompted the adjuster to call in the SIU.
Engineering evidence and verification by two witnesses showed one of the vehicles was driving at a very low speed just before the crash. Local residents stated they heard a vehicle accelerate from a stop and then heard a crash. Cell phone records revealed the occupants in both vehicles were talking to each other minutes before the collision. This evidence refuted the statements made by the drivers about the collision.
The investigation led to fraud charges and a B.C. Supreme Court case. One claimant received a $3,000 fine and was ordered to pay more than $4,000 in restitution. Another person involved in the staged collision received a $5,000 fine, a $1,500 victim fine surcharge and a two-year probation order.

A picture is worth a thousand words
The owner of a flat deck truck claimed four tires and a battery were stolen from the truck. At the time of the reported incident, an ICBC policy was in effect. But for the previous 17 months, the truck was not insured. The policy was purchased on January 18. The owner said he noticed the tires missing on January 21 and last saw his vehicle okay on January 17. SIU investigators canvassed the area for any witnesses or surveillance video in the industrial area where the truck was parked. Investigators found a witness who had taken a picture of the truck and sent it to the City of Vancouver, complaining the vehicle was abandoned and an eye sore for neighbouring businesses. The witness had taken the photo with a cell phone camera, which means there is metadata (the date and time information) embedded in the photo. The metadata indicates the photo was taken, with the tires missing, three-and-half hours before the insurance policy was purchased. ICBC denied the false theft claim.

Up in flames
On New Year’s Eve 2015, a driver who said his white stretch limo was for his own private use was on his way to a friend’s place when smoke suddenly started to come up from under the dash. The vehicle then erupted into flames. Several bystanders took video of the incident and shared the images on YouTube. The driver made a fire claim to ICBC. A mechanical inspection showed the vehicle was in poor condition. ICBC paid the claim.
But upon further online searching, the SIU’s Cyber Unit discovered the limo wasn’t for personal use. It wasn’t properly insured as a vehicle for hire and didn’t have a National Safety Code certification. Therefore, the owner was in breach of his insurance when he made the claim. ICBC is recovering the claims costs.

British Columbians are helping ICBC launch suspected claims fraud investigations. Earlier this year, ICBC conducted a media and public awareness campaign to draw attention to fraud claims. The campaign contributed to more calls to ICBC’s toll-free fraud tips line at 1-800-661-6844. ICBC saw a 70 per cent increase in the number of tips received during the first quarter of 2016 compared to the same time last year.
“The vast majority of claims we receive are legitimate and honestly reported and we always want honest customers to receive a fair settlement,” added Fairbridge. “But, there are some people who want to take advantage of the system by embellishing the facts or overstating their injuries. These are the types of claims that impact everyone’s insurance rates.”
ICBC will continue its commitment to stepping up its fight against fraud, including the implementation of a new fraud analytics tool which will help identify and target fraudulent claims throughout the claim process.  Early experience and testing with this tool have already helped to identify a number of potentially suspicious claims which are currently under investigation.
British Columbians can further protect their wallets by reporting suspicious activities related to insurance fraud to ICBC’s toll-free tips line at 1-800-661-6844. Tip information is confidential and callers can remain anonymous. For more information, visit icbc.com/fraud.

Diamond thieves strike again on East Coast, swap $20k rocks for useless stones

The thieves who switched a pricey diamond with a fake in Saint John, N.B., appear to have struck again.

Charlottetown police say a man and a woman “managed to swap useless stones for two diamonds valued at approximately $20,000” at a store in the P.E.I. capital on Wednesday, October 12, 2016.

Police say they received the complaint on Monday, October 17, 2016 and released a photo of a casually dressed middle-aged couple.

The thieves’ methods and appearance seem to match those of thieves who struck Wayne Smith’s jewelry store on Oct. 7 in Saint John.

Smith says October 12’s  thefts are not uncommon at jewelry stores, but they’re usually kept quiet.

He says he decided to speak out because his insurance deductible is so high it won’t cover the loss, and because the video is so clear the public can help nab the culprits.

Charlottetown police said they are “aware of reports of this type of theft in other jurisdictions,” and asked anyone with information to contact them.

 

Langley man gets 13.5 years for campaign of arsons, shootings at B.C. homes

By Tamsyn Burgmann

THE CANADIAN PRESS

VANCOUVER — Delusions drove a man to target 15 homes in British Columbia with arsons and gunfire, but Vincent Cheung was aware of his drug addiction and his behaviour requires strong denunciation, a judge says.

Associate Chief Justice Austin Cullen of the British Columbia Supreme Court sentenced 43-year-old Cheung  to 13 and a 1/2 years in prison on Wednesday for orchestrating several attacks in 2011 and 2012.

Cheung pleaded guilty last week to 18 of 23 charges, admitting he planned and paid others to carry out firebombings and shootings on homes and cars because he mistakenly believed his victims were connected to a training centre for police. Other first responders also attend the Justice Institute of British Columbia.

Cullen ruled that Cheung’s motives were rooted in delusions but the crimes were calculated and posed threats of serious harm and death.

“I accept the offender did not ‘choose’ to become an addict or to suffer from paranoid delusions,” Cullen said. “He did, however, make certain lifestyle choices … and nefarious connections to wage a campaign of fear against innocent victims.”

Cheung will serve 12 more years in prison after credit for time already served. The judge also ordered a firearms prohibition and said the man must provide a DNA sample.

The Crown had asked for a 15-year prison sentence, while Cheung’s lawyer, Martin Peters, recommended a 10-year-term.

Peters said his client was handed a long sentence, for Canada. He said the judge “perceptively” acknowledged that his client knew he was paranoid for years.

“The judge had to balance the drug-induced delusions — which was something my client suffered — from the very serious impact that the victims felt,” he outside court. “I think the judge, in his sentencing, certainly gave some credit for those delusions.”

Peters said it does not appear Cheung still has delusions, noting he has stopped taking drugs.

“I don’t see this as a long-term problem,” he said.

Crown lawyer Joe Bellows said he was satisfied the sentence will serve as a deterrent.

“I think it does send a message,” he said. “Hopefully no one would be like-minded, but those that might be like-minded, it’s a good sentence.”

Many of the victims are still traumatized by the attacks and some even moved away, but they were glad not to testify, Bellows said.

At the sentencing hearing, court heard nine victim impact statements in which people reported emotional trauma, depression and sleep deprivation. Many of the victims’ homes or cars were burned or had been shot at late at night.

Court heard that Cheung either hired associates or may have carried out the crimes himself, although who did what is still unclear.

He admitted tracking down people who parked their vehicle at the Justice Institute, in the Vancouver area, by paying an employee from the  Insurance Corp. of B.C. to run licence plates and obtain home addresses.

One man gave evidence that Cheung told him he had to take “countermeasures” against people at the justice institute because he believed they were following him. He also believed the institute controlled a satellite in the sky that was zapping his brain, the witness said.

Police forces in cities across the Lower Mainland were investigating the violent incidents separately until the justice institute received an anonymous email connecting eight of the crimes. Cheung was arrested last September after an undercover police operation.

A statement on Wednesday from Chief Supt. Kevin Hackett of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit called the investigation “extremely complex.” He said police expect to make more arrests in the future.

Investigations into the ICBC employee and the people Cheung hired are ongoing, Bellows said.

One man, Thurman Taffe, has pleaded guilty to one count of arson and is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 22.

canada-press

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