A Red Deer businessman was sentenced to two years in jail on Friday after milking $150,000 from numerous American customers through an Internet fraud scam involving equipment and trucks used in the paper shredding business.
Lesley Jerry Billett, 47, pleaded guilty in Red Deer provincial court to 37 fraud-related charges in connection with incidents that occurred between January 2007 and July 2011. Four charges unrelated to fraud were withdrawn.
Crown prosecutor Tony Bell said that Billett would gain customers by offering trucks or equipment for paper shredding businesses and he would then accept deposits. But then the equipment or trucks would never get delivered.
Most of the customers came from the United States and one from Saudi Arabia.
“At one point, he did actually deliver the equipment but it was not as originally described,” said Bell.
Billett also used a credit card number from a customer.
In total, Billett swindled $150,000 and about 26 per cent of that has been repaid, Bell said.
He was charged on April 6, 2011, with 26 counts and then more charges were further laid.
Bell said that Billett avoided a costly trial that would have involved witnesses from the United States and Saudi Arabia.
Both the Crown and defence submitted a recommendation of two years plus one day in a federal penitentiary, with no credit served in pre-trial custody.
Defence lawyer Brad Mulder said that since Billett’s offences came to light, it has ruined his marriage and affected his three children.
Mulder said that his client grew up in Saskatchewan and later moved to Vancouver where he had a paper shredding business for 18 years.
He later operated a similar business in Red Deer, where he would find trucks or equipment and then ship it to other companies.
Mulder said that Billett initially got taken by a business and was out $65,000 to $70,000.
“He was financially in trouble so he would take deposits for things he couldn’t deliver,” said Mulder.
Mulder said the local organizations were paid back when the credit card issue came to light.
Billett had been involved in different clubs in Red Deer and had been vice-president of the Red Deer Lacrosse Association, said Mulder.
He had been in custody since March 27 and has no previous criminal record.
Mulder said that Billett had been trying to pay off some of his customers by selling his house, but the Canada Revenue Agency then got involved with retrieving income taxes.
Judge Gordon Deck read over a number of victim statements from individuals who said that Billett has hurt their lives in various ways. One man said he is 18 months behind in building his business because of the fraud. Another said that they had trusted working with a business in Canada but won’t anymore. Another was worried that they may not be able to acquire a business loan.
Many mentioned how it affected them emotionally and physically.
“People have good faith that people will do what they say and do,” said Deck.