Tag: Crime

05 Nov

Crime Doesn’t Pay

Paul Emile Trudelle In the News Tags: , , , 0 Comments

Richard Humble died in a house fire in his home on April 9, 2011. He died leaving a will dated March 31, 2011. In this will, he left half of his estate to his sister, and half of his estate to a new friend, C who had provided him with some help while he recuperated from knee surgery. (Richard was not married and had no children. He was survived by his sister, who lived overseas.)

The story seems to be a simple one. However, the full story is a shocking one.

After investigation, C was charged with Richard’s murder. C, aged 50, was found guilty by a jury of first-degree murder on March 5, 2015, after a lengthy trial and was sentenced to life in prison with no eligibility for parole for 25 years (some reports say 15 years). The conviction was recently upheld on appeal.

As summarized by the Court of Appeal, “strong circumstantial evidence” suggested that the appellant, C, set the fire to intentionally kill Richard.

Other evidence at trial addressed motive. Shortly before Richard’s death, C took control of Richard’s financial affairs. She did so by obtaining Powers of Attorney. However, there was expert evidence that the Powers of Attorney were forged. Witnesses to the Powers of Attorney testified that they did not witness Richard signing the Powers of Attorney, but that they signed as witnesses after Richard’s death.

Shortly before Richard’s death, C also forged cheques payable to herself and her son totalling $65,000.

Even more troubling was the March 31, 2011 will. C’s computer was seized and searched. It showed Google searches on how to prepare a will. It also contained draft will files dated after the death of Richard. A document examiner was of the opinion that Richard did not sign the will, but that the signature was “cut and pasted”. A search of C’s home revealed several “signed” copies of the will. Computer records showed that C printed the signing page of the will 31 times on the day before the fire. Witnesses to the will gave evidence that they did not sign the will in Richard’s presence, and that C offered them $10,000 to witness the will after Richard had died.

At trial, the Crown introduced evidence that C had used the “cut and paste” technique before. She created lawyer letters indicating that she was successful in a lawsuit and was about to collect money. She created these to delay demands from C’s brother and sister-in-law who had lent C money for the lawsuit and wanted repayment. (The Court of Appeal ultimately found that this evidence was inadmissible. However, the Court of Appeal found that no miscarriage of justice resulted.)

The Court of Appeal also noted the trial evidence that Richard had a sedative in his system at the time of his death. Richard did not have a prescription for this sedative. However, C did. She had obtained two prescriptions for this sedative from two different doctors in the days before the fire. The search of C’s computer showed searches for the drug just before Richard’s death.

To make matters stranger, C gave alibi evidence that did not turn out to be true. At trial, her lawyer argued that she did this in order to have the police believe that she had an alibi, even though she had nothing to do with the fire.

Under the heading “Other Suspicious Circumstances”, the evidence showed that (a) Richard’s home was inspected on March 29, 2011 and the electrician noted that there were batteries in

the smoke detector. When the fire occurred on April 11, there were no batteries in the smoke detector; and (b) Money, the will (allegedly), tax documents and other documents were taken from the house before the fire and were found in C’s possession. For more details on this tragic case, see the Court of Appeal decision, or a Canadian True Crime podcast.

Thanks for reading.

Paul Trudelle

22 Feb

Not Love, Actually

Paul Emile Trudelle Estate & Trust, Estate Planning Tags: , , , 0 Comments

As the last of the Valentine’s Day chocolate is being eaten, I write to raise some red flags relating to “romance scams”.

The US Embassy in Ghana has recently posted a warning about internet romance or friendship scams, particularly relating to correspondents purporting to be in Ghana.

The US Embassy has posted a list of “indicators” that may indicate a scam. These include:

  1. You met a friend/fiancé online.
  2. You have never met face to face.
  3. Your correspondent professed love at “warp speed”.
  4. Your friend/fiancé is plagued with medical or other life problems that require loans.
  5. You are promised repayment upon the inheritance of alluvial gold or gems (!).
  6. You have sent money for visas or plane tickets, but the person cannot seem to make it out of Ghana.
  7. When your correspondent does try to leave the country, he or she claims to have been in a car accident or is detained by immigration, and requires more money.
  8. Your correspondent consistently uses lower case “i’s” and/or grammar not in keeping with their supposed live station or education level.

Internet scams appear to be a growth industry. According to the 2017 Internet Crime Report of the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, they have received over 300,000 complaints in 2017. The value of victim losses in 2017 was $1.42 Billion!

 

Source: FBI IC3 2017 Internet Crime Report

The number and dollar value of the losses are higher amongst older victims. As a result, the US Justice Department announced a coordinated sweep of elder fraud cases under the “Elder Justice Initiative”. “The mission of the Elder Justice Initiative is to support and coordinate the Department’s enforcement and programmatic efforts to combat elder abuse, neglect and financial fraud and scams that target our nation’s seniors.”

Now, if only they can do something about that guy who keeps emailing me to say that he has hacked my computer, and asking me for $737 worth of bitcoins in exchange for not sending videos of me surfing the internet to all of my contacts.

Thanks for reading.

Paul Trudelle

15 Dec

Santa Claus in the Courts

Paul Emile Trudelle General Interest, In the News, Litigation, News & Events Tags: , , , , 0 Comments

Aside from the seminal yet apparently unreported decision of The State of New York v. Kris Kringle, which was dramatized in Miracle on 34th Street, there have been numerous other mentions of Santa Claus in judicial decisions. In honour of the season, I take this opportunity to note the following:

  • In Frasko v. Saturn 121, Inc. et al, which the judge described as “a novel application”, the plaintiff sued 115 shell corporations. (The plaintiff was said to be in the business of buying and selling shelf companies.) The plaintiff noted the 115 defendants in default, and moved for default judgment.  In support of the noting in default, the plaintiff filed a 100 page affidavit of service.  In it, as stated by the judge, the plaintiff claimed to have served or attempted to personally serve the 115 corporate defendants at a wide variety of locations throughout Ontario in only three days, plus 10 other corporate defendants in another proceeding. The judge questioned the accuracy of the affidavit of service, stating: “While Santa Claus has perfected the art of visiting millions of homes in a single night, [the plaintiff’s] affidavit of service makes no claim to have enlisted such assistance in effecting such a miracle of personal service.”

 

  • In Royal Bank v. Edna Granite & Marble Inc, the defendants argued that they had not made payments on a loan for a number of years, and thus the claim was statute-barred. Payments were, however, made by the guarantors of the loan. The bank argued that it did not matter who made the payments: whether they were made “by the borrower, by the Guarantors, or by Santa Claus”. The court accepted this argument.

 

  • In v. Liu, referred to in R. v. Sipes at para. 718, the accused was charged with first-degree murder. Upon his arrest, scratches were observed on his neck and chest. Expert evidence established that the scratches were consistent with ancient Chinese medical treatment. For some reason, the accused sent one of the investigating officers a Christmas card depicting Santa Claus with scratches on his back, being looked at incredulously by Mrs. Claus. The front of the card read “I swear, Honey – I scratched it going down a chimney. Inside the card read “Sometimes, even Mrs. Claus has a hard time believing in Santa.” There, the Crown was unsuccessful in adducing the card as evidence at trial, as its probative value was “tenuous”, yet the potential prejudice was high.

 

  • In v. M.J.O., the judge had difficulty believing the accused’s evidence. “I have read the Mr. M.J.O.’s statement on several occasions. I cannot imaging circumstances that would lead me to believe it. To believe that version of events, in the face of the objective evidence, I would have to believe in Santa Claus and the tooth—fairy.”

There are many other reported reference to Santa Claus on CanLII. Many of them are in sad or disturbing contexts, and are not appropriate for a Friday, pre-Christmas blog.

Happy holidays.

Paul Trudelle

04 Aug

Allegations of Murder and Disinheritance in Ontario

Umair Estate & Trust, Executors and Trustees, In the News, Litigation, News & Events, Public Policy, Trustees, Wills Tags: , , , , 0 Comments

Earlier this week, the controversy surrounding the estate of American real estate developer and multi-millionaire John Chakalos dominated the headlines.

Issues Surrounding Mr. Chakalos’s Estate

Mr. Chakalos, who left a sizeable estate, was found dead at his home in 2013. Pursuant to the terms of Mr. Chakalos’s Will, his daughter Linda was one of the beneficiaries of his estate. Linda went missing and is presumed dead after a boat carrying her and her son, Nathan, sank during a fishing trip.

According to media reports, Linda’s son Nathan was also a suspect in the death of his grandfather, but was never charged. Nathan has denied the allegations regarding his involvement in his grandfather’s death and his mother’s disappearance.

According to an article by TIME, Mr. Chakalos’s three other daughters have now commenced a lawsuit in New Hampshire wherein they have accused Nathan of killing his grandfather and potentially his mother. The plaintiff daughters have asked the Court to bar Nathan from receiving his inheritance from Mr. Chakalos’s estate.

Public Policy and the Law in Ontario

It is important to note that Mr. Chakalos’s grandson has not been charged in the death of Mr. Chakalos, and the allegations against him have yet to be proven. However, there have been similar cases in Ontario where the accused beneficiary has ultimately been found to have caused the death of the testator.

Generally speaking, in Ontario, a beneficiary who is found to have caused the death of the testator is not entitled to benefit from their criminal act. This common law doctrine, often referred to as the “slayer rule,” stands for the proposition that it would be offensive to public policy for a person to benefit from the estate of a testator if the Court concludes that they have caused the death of the testator.

You can read more about the “slayer rule” on our blog here and here.

Thank you for reading,

Umair Abdul Qadir

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