Raymond Davide Mehler entered guilty pleas to seven charges including forgery, false pretense or false statement, attempted false pretense or false statement, and uttering a forged document. Four other charges including uttering a forged document, two counts of fraud under $5,000, and false pretense or false statement were withdrawn by the Crown.
Judge P.G. Pharo adjourned sentencing in the case to May 13 in Taber provincial court, when he is expected to render a judgement. Mehler appeared in court via closed-circuit TV from the Lethbridge Correctional Centre, and was represented by counsel for the defence Scott Hadford.
The 53-year-old had been charged following an incident on the afternoon of Feb. 25, when officers of the Taber Police Service were called to a suspicious transaction at the Alberta vehicle licensing office in Taber.
Police were advised a man had paid for the licensing of several commercial vehicles under a company name and the agent had quickly determined there was something wrong with the cheque. The cheque appeared to be a forgery and Taber police encountered the suspect in the area and he was taken into custody. The accused had been attempting to fraudulently licence two trucks and three trailers at a cost of $2,884.25.
On arrest, the suspect was found in possession of several fake and forged cheques made out to the companies he was about to defraud, as well as several bills of sale for the equipment. The court learned the accused had acquired patterned paper and photocopied the cheques at a Taber copying business.
Investigation revealed that, over a period of several months, a scheme had been developed by Mehler to defraud commercial businesses in the Taber and Lethbridge area. The accused claimed he was being funded by a wealthy Saskatchewan businessman to set up a commercial oilfield service business in Taber.
As a result, between Jan. 21 and Feb. 25, two large equipment/trucking dealers in Taber and a car dealership in Lethbridge had signed sales agreements with Mehler for the purchase of $812,247.33 worth of trucks and equipment.
Mehler also pled guilty to passing two $1,500 fraudulent cheques for wages to an “employee” who was later determined to be unaware of Mehler’s criminal intentions. One of the fake cheques was deposited at a local bank branch and money withdrawn through an ATM, constituting another fraudulent transaction.
In an attempt to legitimize his planned transactions for the machines and equipment, Mehler had also secured insurance policies from a Taber insurance company for the trucks and trailers he hoped to receive from the dealerships totalling $22,185.
Crown prosecutor Bruce Ainscough related the accused had conceived of the scheme while still serving a prison term at the Drumheller Correctional Facility, and had been on parole for less than a month when he engaged in the first of the fraudulent transactions.
Describing the accused’s past criminal history as “significant”, Ainscough detailed some 53 previous property-related convictions starting in 1977. Although the total of the attempted frauds approached $1 million, the accused received only $611 in actual funds.
Hadford indicated his client should be given consideration in sentencing as he was currently dying of cancer and had recently been given a year to live, a claim Ainscough considered suspect considering the accused’s past criminal history and a lack of any medical evidence presented to support such a determination.
“This man has basically made a career out of defrauding and manipulating people.”
Ainscough asked for a sentence of two years plus a day, a sentence defence attorney Scott Hadford argued was too harsh under the circumstances, advocating for a 16 month sentence.