Dec. 21, 2018 (Courtesy of lfpress.com) – A human-trafficking victim was sentenced to one year in jail for her part in a province wide scheme that successfully defrauded a bank chain of more than $100,000.
The Court heard over a three-week stretch that Abby-Lynn Lafond walked into Royal Bank of Canada branches from Woodstock to Collingwood to Peterborough claiming to be a customer who was in the area for a wedding but had lost her luggage and needed to make a withdrawal.
In many cases she had pieces of ID of the customer she was impersonating and knew details such as account balances. Some tellers noticed she would constantly look at her phone before answering any questions, but in many cases she was able to leave with a combined $7,000 in Canadian and U.S. cash.
The total reached $117,591.95. The money was never recovered.
Lafond, 41, was finally arrested by Stratford police in late July after a teller at the Ontario Street branch called police. The employee listened to the wedding-related request, but noticed a similar withdrawal one hour earlier at the location in New Hamburg.
Lafond pleaded guilty to 16 counts in a Stratford courtroom Thursday, many of them fraud over $5,000. While sentencing her to a year behind bars, Ontario Court Justice Kathryn McKerlie called it a “sophisticated, well-orchestrated and effective” scheme.
Defence lawyer Erik Van Drunen said although the scheme was sophisticated, his client was a “pawn” or a “fall girl” who received no money – just a place to stay and drugs.
Police found no money on her after her arrest.
Court heard the Hamilton native and former restaurant manager’s life unravelled two years ago after becoming addicted to painkillers, eventually losing her apartment and car due to lack of payment. In 2017, a friend suggested the sex industry was a good way to make some money and gave her the name of a person to contact in Sarnia.
This is when his client’s life went from “bad to very much worse,” Van Drunen said. Lafond was coerced into working for a pimp, who got her addicted to crystal meth and cocaine, Van Drunen said.
Lafond wiped tears from her eyes while her lawyer spoke about these details.
Assistant Crown attorney Elizabeth Wilson agreed with the pawn analogy, but said Lafond was still “in the game” and the face of the operation.
The judge ordered Lafond, who was initially facing 57 charges, to pay the money back to RBC.