With the arrest of Montreal fraudster Earl Jones, bilked investors are now looking to the justice system for a measure of retribution, since there's little likelihood of getting their money back.
If Vincent Lacroix's recent release from prison serves as an example, they shouldn't hold their breath.
Mr. Lacroix was convicted of stealing $130 million dollars from some 9200 investors and after all was said and done spent just 555 days in jail.
Those investors each lost an average of $140,000 dollars and if you do the math it works out that for each of those crimes, Vincent Lacroix spent a total of 1½ hours in prison!
Yup, each and every of one of Mr. Lacroix's 9200 victims needs to be satisfied in the knowledge that he spent a total of 1½ hours in jail for the crime he committed against them.
1½ hours in prison!
People may look at the 150 year prison term that Bernie Madoff got as being a bit excessive, but what the judge did quite rightly is add time up for each crime committed. Those victimized by Madoff can take a measure of relief that he'll rot in jail for the rest of his life.
Here in Canada we take the perverted view that 'non-violent' crime is somehow less damaging than violent crime and should thus be judged differently.
In other words, rob with a pen and you'll get a slap on the wrist. Rob with a gun and you'll get serious time.
A home invader may typically get 6 years for a first offence, but will not be eligible for accelerated parole after serving 1/6 of the sentence because of the weapon he brandished in the commission his crime. Typically he'll make off with a few thousand dollars at best.
A fraudster who uses no violence to fleece investors of their life savings will typically get the same type of sentence, but will be eligible for very early parole.
I wonder if all those swindled, given a choice would rather suffer a home invasion where they are held at gunpoint and relieved of a couple of thousand dollars, rather than losing their life savings in a 'non-violent' fraud?
While I certainly don't belittle the terror that those who suffer a home invasion go through, the vast majoirty would certainly opt for the hour of terror, rather than seeing their entire financial future wiped out.
Given everything that has occurred this last year with Lacroix and Madoff, how will our judicial system react?
Will Mr Jones get bail and walk out of jail until his eventual trial months or years later?
If convicted, will he get a sentence that reflects the gravity of the crime?
Will the justice system listen to the desperate voices of the victims crying out for a sentence that befits the crime?
To underline how little faith people have in our criminal justice system, the victims Earl Jones are are organizing a demonstration in front of the courthouse today to demand justice. Victims of other frauds are also invited to participiate.
That's how low our justice system has fallen.
While justice is supposed to be blind, it appears that in Canada, it is deaf, dumb and blind!
We'd all like like to see Earl Jones get the book thrown at him.
Problem is, that in Canada the book is very, very thin.
No matter what is proven the very, very most time Earl Jones will serve is five years.
On the other hand, if things go his way, he may serve less than year!
What a travesty!
The very best thing we should do is to let Earl Jones go free and deport him to the United States.
Apparently, some of those he bilked are Americans. I bet that the US Attorney's office would love to get their hands on him. Even if he defrauded just one person in the US as opposed to the hundred or so here, he can anticipate a sentence that is three or four times longer in America. Being a foreigner, he have to serve out the majority of whatever that sentence would be.
Canadian police often are happy to cooperate and transfer dangerous international criminals to American custody because of sentencing differences.
It reminds me of the drunk Russian diplomat who killed a pedestrian in Ottawa while under the influence, a number of years ago. The Russian government invoked diplomatic privilege and sent him home. The public was outraged that the man would escape justice.
Privately a Russian official told me that the diplomat involved begged to be tried in Canada and to do his time here. Instead, he went home to face Russian justice, where he was convicted and sent to a Russian prison for four years! It is likely that in Canada he would have been sentenced to two or three years and be out in a couple of months!
If we want thing s to change we need to let our politicians feel the heat. They will only listen when people rise up and threaten their power.
This first demonstration is a start.