One of four local men accused in a kidnapping and extortion scheme has been sentenced to five and a half years in prison for the part he played.
Scheduled for trial in 2015, Gregory James Roberts was brought before Justice Monica Bast in Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench on Tuesday after a plea negotiation between his lawyer and the Crown.
Roberts, 27, was arrested on March 13, 2013, by Red Deer and Sylvan Lake RCMP investigating reports that a man had been kidnapped and his girlfriend’s truck taken from him about a week earlier over an unpaid debt.
Reading a statement of facts created by himself and defence counsel Patty MacNaughton, Crown prosecutor Wayne Silliker said victim Cody Friesen was driving his girlfriend’s pickup truck in Red Deer on the afternoon of March 4, 2013, when he was invited to meet with two other men at a fast-food restaurant downtown.
Another man arrived shortly after, followed by Roberts, and Friesen was challenged to pay back a debt of $10,000. Silliker said Friesen had offered the money to have his father assaulted, and then tried to back out of the deal.
At some point, Friesen contacted his girlfriend on the phone to tell her that the men had her truck and that she wouldn’t get it back if he couldn’t come up with a $2,000 deposit on the money owed to them.
Friesen was held at an apartment in Red Deer, where he was shot with a pellet gun, punched and robbed.
During his confinement in the apartment, Roberts and two of the other men contacted his girlfriend, Erin Thiessen, demanding $2,000 up front and giving her and Friesen 72 hours to come up with the balance.
Although warned not to contact police, Thiessen went to the Sylvan Lake RCMP detachment and then set up a meeting with Roberts and one of the other men at a gas station in Sylvan Lake.
The meeting was scuttled when Roberts contacted his partners to say that Thiessen had called police.
At some point during the incident, Roberts bound Friesen with zip ties and duct tape. He was later moved to a house in Oriole Park, where he was placed in a basement room.
Silliker said Friesen escaped the home on the afternoon of March 5, running to a nearby business to phone Thiessen, who took him to the hospital in Lacombe for injuries and cuts he had suffered.
Roberts was arrested at the Oriole Park house where Friesen was held.
Roberts pleaded guilty on Tuesday to kidnapping and confining Friesen and to two counts of extortion, with both Friesen and Thiessen named as his targets.
MacNaughton said the kidnapping and extortion was unsophisticated and not well planned.
She said her client does not have total recall of the events because he was using methamphetamine at the time. She said he stayed free of penalties during his months in remand and has taken addiction counselling, family violence courses and high school upgrading.
Bast supported MacNaughton and Silliker’s recommendation, sentencing Roberts to five and a half years, minus 11 months of credit for the 417 days he spent in pre-trial custody.
She also ordered that he provide a sample of his DNA and banned him from having firearms for the balance of his life.
Also charged in connection with the incident were Logan Mitchell, Scott Hebert and Thomas Larkin.
Mitchell, 19, pleaded guilty to a reduced number of charges in October and was sentenced to 18 months.
Hebert, 33, and Larkin, 34, are to stand trial in Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench from March 9 to 20, 2015. Charges against them include extortion, kidnapping, possession of a dangerous weapon, assault, assault with a weapon, robbery and possession of stolen property worth more than $5,000.