A Red Deer man described as the “kingpin” of a cheque-writing scam that defrauded nearly $60,000 from banks and payday loan companies was sentenced on Friday to 90 days in jail.
Curt Douglas Whitten, 37, will serve his jail time on weekends and must also serve an 18-month conditional sentence in the community and two years probation. Red Deer provincial court Judge David Plosz also ordered Whitten to pay about $27,000 in restitution and fines.
Whitten pleaded guilty to 29 fraud-related charges. Half a dozen banks and several cheque-cashing firms were duped by Whitten and a pair of accomplices who cashed bogus cheques in Red Deer, Airdrie, Lacombe, Rocky Mountain House and Eckville. The frauds occurred from March-October 2008.
Six business accounts were opened at banks as part of what the judge called an “elaborate scheme” to fund Whitten’s cocaine addiction.
Before the judge passed sentence, Whitten told the judge he has had a lot of time to think about what he did and was upset that he allowed the “fiasco” to go on for seven months.
“I do apologize very much for my actions,” he said. He has taken a well-paying job with an oilfield services company and hopes to pay back the money. He has already paid back some of the money.
Plosz said an aggravating factor was that Whitten, who has a criminal record, got others involved in his scam, “some willing and others unwittingly.” Among those pulled into the scheme were three young people from Red Deer and Eckville.
As part of his conditional sentence, Whitten must stay at home unless at work or going to medical appointments, one-day-a-week grocery trips or other approved outings for the first six months. After that, a curfew will be in place.
Donald Hutlet, of Benalto previously received a suspended sentence and 30 months probation for his role in the scam. He pleaded guilty in January 2010 to five counts of fraud and a single count of breaching probation. He must pay more than $11,000..
Mardy Brand, of Red Deer, was sentenced to 18 months probation and must pay back about $5,000. He pleaded guilty in March 2010 to five counts of making false pretenses.