One of 23 alleged victims of identity fraud in Regina wonders why the man who was charged, and has a long history of fraud convictions, was released on bail just two weeks before the Saskatchewan incidents.
Marino Vecchioli spoke to CBC’s iTeam about the case involving James Donald Provost, of no fixed address, who faces 58 charges related to mail theft, forgery, impersonation and identity fraud.
Vecchioli said that in mid-November, a credit check was done on him as part of his efforts to buy a car.
“I noticed that there were four or five inquiries that I didn’t do. So I was like, ‘What the hell is this?’” Vecchioli recalled.
He learned someone had applied for a variety of credit cards, using his information, without his knowledge.
“And I didn’t know how they got my [information], so we looked into it a little further and I found out they must have got some of my mail,” Vecchioli said.
He said mail addressed to him had been delivered to a condo he owns that had been vacant for a few months, and he was shocked to learn perpetrators got two credit cards approved, using only his name and address, while making up the rest of the information.
According to court documents, Provost allegedly had a Saskatchewan driver’s licence and an Ontario birth certificate bearing Vecchioli’s name. Police allege the documents were, or appeared to be, forged.
However, Provost has not been charged for offences related to credit card applications made in Vecchioloi’s name.
Vecchioli said that now he’s working with a credit agency to repair the damage caused by what he calls “a pretty big ordeal.”
“They’re still actually working on it, like on fixing the credit report. It’s still not even fixed yet. It’s been over a month now.“
Regina police allege Vecchioli and 22 other people were victimized by Provost between Nov. 16 and Dec.18.
They said Provost targeted people and businesses from Prince of Wales Drive in east-end Regina to Hanbidge Crescent in the northwest.
Provost was arrested in a Harbour Landing hotel room where police said they found equipment used to forge identity documents.
They say he stole mail and forged correctional service inmate cards, health cards, Indian status cards and driver’s licences.
Provost is now on remand and set to appear in court Tuesday morning.
Criminal record dates back to 1990s
Provost has a lengthy criminal record dating back to the 1990s.
He faces more than 70 charges in Alberta, where it’s alleged he forged documents, stole mail, impersonated people and possessed identity documents belonging to dozens of people.
His Alberta court date is set for later this year.
Despite the long list of charges, Provost was released on $5,000 bail on Oct. 31, just days before he is alleged to have begun a crime spree in Saskatchewan.
“It’s crazy to me,” Vecchioli told CBC’s iTeam, “You know they’re going to do it again. Why would you give them $5,000 bail? Why would you give them bail at all?”
“Keep the guy locked up and that way he can’t do what he is doing.”
CBC’s iTeam asked the head of commercial crime for the Regina Police Service, Sgt. Bob Koroluk, about Provost’s previous record.
“Any police officer would be disturbed when that happens, when criminals come from other provinces, come here to Regina and commit the same offences that they’ve committed somewhere else,” Koroluk said.
But Koroluk said he’s not necessarily surprised.
“We see it all the time,” Koroluk explained. “There [are] criminals that never learn.”
2nd Regina ID fraud ring linked to Provost
The same day warrants were issued for Provost’s arrest, police were rounding up another group of suspects in Regina who were accused of identity fraud and theft.
One of the accused, Brad Waselenchuk, appears to have been an associate of Provost’s in Alberta.
In Regina, he was charged with identity fraud and theft, possession of stolen mail, possession of forged documents and fraud over $5,000.
Last March, in Alberta, Waselenchuk and Provost faced similar allegations when they were charged together with theft of mail and various fraud offences.
They were both released on bail on Oct. 31. Waselenchuk was let go on a promise to pay $2,000 if he violated his bail conditions.
Like Provost, Waselenchuk also has a lengthy record of fraud convictions dating back to the 1990s.
Koroluk said police have no evidence to suggest the two men were working together in Saskatchewan. He said the incidents are being investigated separately.
Ex-RCMP head wants tougher penalties
The former director of the RCMP’s proceeds of crime unit, Garry Clement, said this story highlights a problem with the way Canada treats fraud.
“Canada has to start treating white-collar criminals with some severity because the unfortunate part is there isn’t any respect of the damage they are doing to these individuals [victims] and in some cases, it’s life changing for some of these people,” he said.
Clement, who now runs a private security firm, said sentences in this country for fraud and other financial crimes are “a borderline joke.”
“The trend has been in the last few years that you are seeing more and more organized crime groups moving into the white-collar crime arena,” Clement said.
“The returns are pretty good and the risks are absolutely minimal. We’ve been known for a long time to be very soft on white-collar crime.”
Clement said frauds are difficult to investigate and prosecute, yet the criminals often end up serving just a few months before getting back out on the street.
He said Canada should consider more severe penalties, such as five to 10 years in prison, for habitual white-collar criminals.
“They’d probably think twice of it. I am not saying it is going to eliminate it, but at least there’s consequences for being a serial white-collar criminal.”