LETTER: Glimpse of yesteryear
LETTER: Get proactive on profiling
LETTER: Don't trust fish farms
MICHAEL DE ADDER CARTOON: FEB. 27, 2020
COVID-19 could hit Nova Scotia's aging population hard
JOHN DeMONT: When Les Suêtes winds come roaring out of the Cape Breton ...
Cape Breton man jailed and banned from social media for repeated ...
High-speed crash destroys St. John's traffic light, sends driver to ...
Three Memorial Sea-Hawks star-struck; English named AUS top coach
Once he entered the courtroom Wednesday morning, Doudou Kikewa Mpumudjie flipped his middle finger to one news reporter, called another news reporter a bitch, then took his seat to await the judge for his sentencing hearing.
After some hesitation, Mpumudjie, 29, said he wanted to officially plead guilty to charges of identity theft and fraud.
"I'm not in agreement, but I have no choice," he said, explaining he did not agree with some of the facts of the crimes to be presented by the Crown.
Judge James Walsh told him that he couldn't accept his guilty pleas on that basis.
"Well then, I'm setting the matter for trial. You want to plead guilty, but you're not accepting the facts. I can't accept your guilty pleas in that case because they were not free and voluntary," Walsh said, telling Mpumudjie he had already scheduled the hearing twice for similar reasons, causing the court time and financial resources.
Mpumudjie told the judge he accepted the facts and wanted his sentencing hearing to go ahead.
"Here goes nothing," prosecutor Richard Deveau said before reading the facts of Mpumudjie's crimes to the court.
Mpumudjie is one of four men arrested last February and charged in connection with an identity theft scheme that saw the personal information of more than 20 people used to create false identification cards.
The fake IDs were then used to open bank accounts and obtain credit cards, cellphone contracts, at least one airline ticket and more.
On Feb. 17, staff of Purolator Courier in St. John's contacted the RCMP to report a suspicious package they said had been dropped off to be shipped overnight to Montreal, to an address that was a Fedex depot.
The man who dropped off the package had also visited the Purolator location earlier in the day to collect a package from Montreal, staff said.
Police seized the package and obtained a warrant to search it, finding more than a dozen pre-paid VISA cards of $250 each inside.
Purolator staff called police again the following day to say they had received another package addressed to the same man. Officers found two fake Ontario driver's licences and five fake social insurance cards inside, and removed them from the package before setting up a stakeout around the Purolator depot. They watched as Mpumudjie arrived in a car with three other men, went inside to collect the package, then came back out.
Minutes later, he went back into the depot, yelling at staff that his package was empty. That's when he was arrested, as were the men in the car.
At the time, Mpumudjie was found to be carrying another fake driver's licence, and police found nine new iPhones, all obtained using false ID documents, in the vehicle.
A couple of days later, after receiving a call from a person who said he had been renting short-term accommodations to the four men, police searched a St. John's apartment and found multiple fake driver's licences, social insurance cards, Canadian citizenship cards and VISA debit cards. There were also numerous cellphones, all obtained with the fake ID cards, as well as a WestJet boarding pass for a flight from Montreal to St. John's in the name of one of the people on the cards.
The names and personal information on the cards belonged to real people, the court heard. None of them were from this province.
A laptop in the apartment contained the personal information of more people, with indications they were going to be the next identity theft victims, Deveau told the court.
Mpumudjie has been convicted of two identity theft and fraud charges, as well as three breaches of court orders. At the time he was apprehended in St. John’s, there were warrants for his arrest in Alberta and Saskatchewan, where he is facing similar charges.
Deveau argued for a sentence of 24 months in prison for Mpumudjie, telling the court the identity theft scheme had been a sophisticated one that likely would have continued if the men hadn't been arrested.
The large number of victims and Mpumudjie's "hands-on" role in sending and collecting the false documents are aggravating factors in the case, Deveau said, as is Mpumudjie's criminal record and pending charges in other provinces.
Mpumudjie had actually been ordered by another provincial court not to possess a debit or credit card, Deveau said.
Deveau said he is of the understanding that Mpumudjie, who is a permanent resident of Canada, will likely be deported, but suggested the judge not take immigration into consideration as a significant factor when determining a sentence.
Permanent residents can be deported if they are sentenced to more than six months in prison for a crime committed in Canada.
"Based on conversations I've had with (the Canadian Border Services Agency), it's very probable he will be deported. Even before he was charged here, there was already an admissibility hearing started," Deveau said.
The Canadian Border Services Agency can request that permanent residents believed to have breached the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act appear before a panel for a hearing. They can be deported if they are deemed to be a security threat or to have violated the act.
"It seems we don't have to spend very much time on this issue because it seems it's already a fait accompli," Deveau said.
Mpumudjie's lawyer, Ben Curties, is expected to argue for a jail term of less than six months when he presents his sentencing submissions next week.
Walsh will sentence Mpumudjie and one of his co-accused, 46-year-old Joseph Kalombo Ndonki, Aug. 14.