A former financial adviser wiped tears from his eyes as he was sentenced to two years in jail for defrauding his long-time clients and friends of more than $155,000.
“It was the ultimate betrayal,” said Justice Earl Wilson of Red Deer’s Court of Queen’s Bench before he sentenced Shaun Wayne Howell on Wednesday morning.
The Drayton Valley man had previously pleaded guilty to three counts of fraud. Howell had worked for RBC Dominion Securities between 2013 and 2015, when he victimized three Red Deer couples.
Howell had no great motive for “giving in to his baser instincts,” other than having “champagne appetites on a Coca-Cola income,” said Wilson.
“You (defrauded) people who trusted you, even loved you. There were no red flags for these people because they were your close connections.”
According to lawyer Daniel Murphy, Howell had a gambling habit and was trying to keep up with richer friends when he stole money from three couples who were his friends and/or long-term clients.
All three frauds were similar: The couples handed over cheques to Howell — ranging from $5,000 to $70,000 — with the understanding that he would be investing this money for them.
Instead, Howell put the cheques into his own bank account to cover his personal expenses. He would sometimes transfer a portion of the money he defrauded from one couple to another to supposedly show what they had gained from their “investment.”
RBC Dominion Securities compensated the victims for their net losses of $155,480.
Wilson ordered Howell to repay this amount to RBC within two years. If not, he said the company has the right to go after him in civil court.
Several mitigating circumstances were considered before Wilson slapped Howell with the two-year jail sentence, as was recommended by Crown prosecutor Brian Holtby and Murphy.
The judge noted Howell had immediately admitted to the frauds and been co-operative and transparent with law enforcement and the courts.
He also turned his life around, said Wilson. The positive change prompted even one of his victims to vouch for him to a company that has since employed Howell.
The middle-aged former financial adviser lost his marriage after his arrest, and had to “humiliate” himself doing menial labour, such as rock picking, noted Wilson.
“You are living the worst hell that no jail sentence can (bestow). You have the knowledge that you betrayed all of those people.”
Wilson recommended Howell serve his time at Bowden Institution before the offender was led away by guards.