RCMP officer to learn fate of fraud trial in March

A former Innisfail Mountie accused of tormenting his tenants, extortion and mortgage fraud will learn his fate in late March.

A former Innisfail Mountie accused of tormenting his tenants, extortion and mortgage fraud will learn his fate in late March.

Defence counsel Ian McKay presented his final arguments on Wednesday in the trial of RCMP Const. Hoa Dong La, now living in Airdrie and on paid leave from his posting with the Passport and Immigrant section in Calgary.

La, 47, was tried before Justice David Gates in Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench on three counts of criminal harassment, two counts of extortion and 10 counts of mortgage fraud. The charges relate to events involving a variety of properties in Innisfail, Bowden and the surrounding area.

The RCMP earlier waived an internal investigation pending the outcome of his trial, with the judge to release a decision on March 23.

McKay and his co-counsel, Heather Ferg, challenged Crown witnesses during the four weeks of the trial, but did not present evidence.

In opening their final arguments on Wednesday, McKay chose first to address the issues of mortgage fraud, in which Crown prosecutors Leah Boyd and James Pickard accused La of misrepresenting his intentions to get reduced fees and lower down payments on properties that he intended to offer as rentals.

Crown witnesses had testified that fees and insurance premiums are higher on rental properties because there is a higher risk of default.

Pointing specificially to a home that La had offered to Ed and Jennifer Henschel, McKay said La had met the owner-occupied requirement because he had stayed at the home for at least one night.

“As crazy as it sounds,” that was all that was required to meet the terms of the agreement, with nothing in the documents prohibiting him from renting it out after that, said McKay.

Further, he argued that the home was offered to the Henschels on a rent-to-own agreement, which is actually a sales contract and not a rental agreement, he said.

McKay went on to attack the credibility of the Henschels and other witnesses in relation to the charges of extortion and criminal harassment, pointing to inconsistencies in their testimonies between their appearances at the preliminary inquiry and the trial and stating that there were points where evidence given by one witness did not match that of another.

Justice Gates offered some of his own insight at various points during McKay’s arguments, stating that he believed there could be no doubt that both of the Henschels, Ed Henschel in particular, were traumatized during the course of their dealings with La.

In debating the Crown’s evidence with McKay, Gates compared the Henschel’s responses to La with battered spouse syndrome, including an email in which they accept blame for certain events and their public expression of gratitude in a newspaper advertisement.

The email and the advertisement were part of the family’s efforts to distance them from the accused, said Gates.

“It was their attempt to get away from him,” he said. “They knew standing up to him would make him angry.”

bkossowan@bprda.wpengine.com

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