In an unlikely turn of events, the judge presiding over a Kitchener identity theft lab case disagreed with the Crown’s sentencing proposal.
In September 2019, Waterloo police executed a search warrant at an apartment on Highland Road West to discover a sophisticated identity theft laboratory being run by a man named Jason Boland. Boland, 36, had reportedly failed to pay rent, so the building owner legally entered the unit and found evidence of fraud-related crimes, which she reported.
“She [the landlord] noticed an open binder containing government identity documents, including driver’s licences, social insurance number cards and Ontario health cards containing different names, addresses and dates of birth,” Crown prosecutor Benjamin Schnell informed the court.
The lab used sophisticated printers and laminating machines to create fraudulent government identification—an estimated 250 people had their identities stolen. In their search, police recovered two computers, a laptop, a standalone hard drive, five separate printers, a laminator and a shredder.
They seized stolen mail containing personal identity information, forged identity cards and hundreds of identity documents and information and six fraudulent unfilled prescriptions for opioids. A subsequent police investigation connected “approximately 30” incidents of the use of fraudulent prescriptions between August and October 2019.
“The identity theft allowed 7,200 prescription pills to be released into a community already ravaged by the effects of opiates,” Justice Glen Donald said in court.
This, he said has caused headaches for medical professionals and hinders the important work they do caring for sick patients.
“Doctors and pharmacists suffered a loss of productivity measured in weeks,” Donald said. “When doctors and pharmacists are removed from their usual responsibilities, the risk to a sick patient is real.”
At least two other people were also involved in the lab, including Megan Bastien, 36. Bastien, who played a lesser role, pleaded guilty in November to identity theft. Bastien has a long criminal record and was on probation at the time of the identity theft. She will be sentenced by Justice Wayne Rabley after a report on her background is prepared.
Boland also pleaded guilty to two counts of identity theft and appeared before the courts in December for sentencing.
Crown’s Sentencing Proposal Rejected as too Lenient
The Crown proposed a sentence of two years and 222 days behind bars, minus presentence custody. In an unusual turn of events, the presiding judge, Justice Glen Scott Donald, disagreed.
“Frankly, I am worried about the sufficiency of the sentence that was suggested by the Crown,” he said, noting that, while guilty pleas save the court valuable time, he has “some significant reservations” with the sentence proposal.
“The difficulty is that I am armed with the knowledge that after spending 183 days in custody from September through to March of 2020, Mr. Boland was once again undeterred from criminality.
Moreover and notable is that he quickly returned to the identity theft trade with a profit motive….while living with his parents within only months of securing a sympathetic release from the deplorable conditions that he described in his affidavit.”
He said Boland’s actions have had dramatic consequences for the victims.
Consequences of Identity Fraud
“The effects of identity theft on its immediate victims breaks down into the following categories. One, fear and anxiety, including the thought that one may be forced to pay for purchases never made. Two, loss of time dealing with police and credit bureaus and credit departments and three, a compromised credit rating resulting in diminished economic independence. For many individuals what begins with something seemingly relatively minor, like a theft of a wallet, morphs into a leviathan.”
He also noted the added dimension in relation to opioids and the ongoing crisis the community faces in combating it.
Incarceration Required to Deter Further Frauds
“Mr. Boland’s track record for obedience of court orders has repeatedly been poor. I appreciate that the Crown took the position that it did on the first set of charges on the basis that Mr. Boland’s decision to plead guilty saved the administration of justice from what would have been a three week trial at a time in history when trial time has never been more precious,” he said. “In this case, however, I have concluded that in an effort to address a concern about the scarcity of trial time, the Crown’s position on sentence on the circumstances of this case, given Mr. Boland’s antecedents, is wholly insufficient in terms of providing sufficient specific deterrence.”
He said Boland’s “moral culpability is high” because he was acutely aware of the severity of his actions but had clearly underestimated the consequences of them.
As a result, Donald issued a sentence of 3.5 years (42 months) in a penitentiary but deducted the 18.5 months Boland had served in pretrial custody. This left a net sentence of 23.5 months.
A full copy of the sentencing decision of Jason Boland is available here.