A Maple Ridge man who bilked money from more than 20 people in the United States was sentenced to three years in a federal prison.
Brent Gordon Skorobohach was handed the prison term after pleading guilty to one count of fraud related to swindling Dolly Steyer and Robert Anderson from 2006 to 2010.
Skorobohach called seniors in the U.S. and told them there was money owed to them. He asked them to send him cash or money orders for fees and border taxes before he could forward the funds to them.
The funds were transferred to Skorobohach via Western Union and Canada Post and police were able to identify about 20 victims who had sent him almost $100,000.
Many of the victims were difficult to contact or could not be contacted because they were ill or had passed away.
“Elderly and infirm individuals were exploited over a long period of time,” said provincial court judge Marion Buller-Bennett in a ruling released this week.
“These types of offences are very difficult to detect and investigate. This was a planned and deliberate enterprise and Mr. Skorobohach had help through his girlfriend and his brother to carry out the fraud. The impact on the victims is quite moving.”
Steyer, who is in her 80s and lives in California, paid Skorobohach $23,132 in 170 transactions.
The court heard she had no concept of the number of transactions involved and the amount that she had sent.
Anderson, who lives in Iowa and is younger than Steyer, paid Skorobohach a total of $11,447.95 over 70 transactions.
As a result of sending these funds, he fell behind in his mortgage payments and the bank started foreclosure on his home.
When contacted for a pre-sentence report, Anderson said he wanted the court to make sure this type of offence never happened to anyone else.
Skorobohach, 45, was introduced to telemarketing fraud after he answered an ad in a newspaper and began working for a company in Port Moody.
In 2003, Skorobohach was present when Port Moody police executed a search warrant at his business. They were investigating telemarketing fraud, as well.
In a statement to police after his arrest, Skorobohach said that he took some of the contact information he had received while working at the Port Moody telemarketing company with him and started defrauding people from his own home in Maple Ridge.
He also told police it was the victims’ “choice” to send him money and therefore not fraud.
Skorobohach also blamed alcoholism for his lapses in judgement, an excuse Judge Buller-Bennett refused to accept.
He has since been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
“In my view, there has to be a jail sentence to address the principles of sentencing,” said Buller-Bennett.
Besides spending sometime in prison, Skorobohach will also have to pay back Steyer and Anderson.