Greed and power motivated an RCMP officer accused of bullying tenants and defrauding mortgage providers and their insurers, a Crown prosecutor said during trial closing arguments on Tuesday.
Const. Hoa Dong La, 47, is being tried before Justice David Gates in Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench, charged with three counts of criminal harassment, two counts of extortion and 10 counts of mortgage fraud. The charges relate to five different properties in Innisfail, Bowden and the surrounding area.
Now living in Airdrie, La was a member of the RCMP Innisfail detachment before being transferred to the Passport and Immigrant Section in Calgary. He is currently on paid leave from the force, which has suspended an internal investigation of his activities pending the outcome of his trial.
Closing arguments in the trial began on Tuesday with the defence team to state its case today.
In opening the case against La, Crown prosecutor Leah Boyd, co-counsel with James Pickard, told the court that the evidence provided of extortion and harassment far exceed what is necessary for him to be found guilty.
Boyd focused on evidence provided by witness Jennifer Henschel at the start of her argument, stating that Henschel grew terrified of La and that her family eventually went into hiding to get away from him.
Jennifer Henschel and her husband, Ed, both testified about the property they had procured through a rent-to-own agreement with La and the battles that ensued when La decided he wanted his fees in six months rather than the the two years prescribed in the agreement, said Boyd.
Of the two, Jennifer was the one who dealt most frequently with La. He made efforts to control all aspects of their lives, including telling them that the money they spent to attend her grandmother’s funeral in Saskatchewan as well as the money they were giving to their church should have gone to him, she said.
La went as far as telling them to stay home rather than going to church on one Sunday morning, and that they should get the children out of the house because he was coming over to meet with them.
Both testified he drew blinds upon entering the house and that, although he was not in uniform, he was wearing his sidearm, which he kept in plain view during the hours he spent there.
He “bragged” to them of his efforts to “chase” another couple out town, said Boyd.
“There is clear evidence that Mrs. Henschel was . . . tormented, troubled, worried, plagued, bedevilled or badgered,” she said.
“It cannot be seen as unreasonable that Jennifer Henschel feared for her safety.”
La’s defence team, co-counsels Ian McKay and Heather Ferg, were to present final arguments today. McKay did not submit evidence at trial.