This story originally appeared in the Dec. 24, 2015 edition of the Chilliwack Times
A man who stole or defrauded thousands of dollars from dozens of elderly people in Chilliwack and Agassiz was sentenced to four years in jail in Chilliwack provincial court last Thursday.
Donald Quinnell pleaded guilty to 22 counts of fraud and theft under $5,000 — he was originally charged with 15 counts of fraud and 14 counts of theft — for a string of incidents before and over Christmas of 2014.
Quinnell preyed upon vulnerable, older and trusting individuals with complicated, confusing and calculated scams.
He had a variety of scams: In some he would convince a Good Samaritan to “lend” him money for a tow truck after a supposed accident, others were giving someone a deal on carpets or appliances, others were simple distraction thefts.
“These offences can only be seen as predatory in nature and premeditated,” Judge Wendy Young said in handing down her sentence Dec. 17.
“Their collective trust has been shattered,” Young said as she recounted parts of the 16 victim impact statements provided to the court.
His defence claimed these were crimes of opportunity by a drug-addicted man, but the research into the names of neighbours and familiarity with some victim’s situations illustrated quite the opposite.
Young recounted all 22 cases in court, which included: stealing $100 and a camera from a man; convincing a woman to give him $600 to buy appliances; stealing a wallet with $100 and irreplaceable photos of grandchildren; and taking more than $400 in cash in an envelope in a tea cozy from a 93-year-old woman in her retirement home.
Victims said they no longer trusted people at their door, others complained of a loss of sleep, one man said he has spent money to retrofit his house with security, and yet another woman complained of having to spend Christmas giving statements to police.
“There collective trust has been shattered,” Young told the court.
Young agreed to a joint submission from Crown and defence for a sentence of five years, with credit for one year Quinnell has already served in pre-trial custody. She pointed to his long criminal record for similar offences.
And while this is less than the six-year sentence he received in 2008 in Calgary for a similar string of frauds and thefts, there were many more victims in that case, more money involved, and, in the Chilliwack case, his guilty plea saved the courts and the victims the difficulty of what would have been a long and complicated trial.
Still, Quinnell offered little if any sympathy for the victims of his crimes, instead in a tearful apology at his sentencing hearing on Dec. 3 he mostly wept for the hurt he had caused his family and himself.
“I truly am a good person when cocaine is not ruining my life,” he said.
His lawyer also complained that Quinnell had been beaten up twice at the North Fraser Pre-Trial Centre when fellow inmates found out what he had done.
Quinnell has a spouse who is sticking by his side. He also has a two-and-a-half-year-old child, a baby that he used in at least one of the scams in the current file and in another in a prior conviction.
The Crown did not seek restitution of the lost money, pointing to the small chance of success in recovering the cash. As for a victim impact surcharge, this is usually calculated at $200 per offence, which would have meant a $4,400 bill upon his release. Instead, it is customary to order one day in custody for every $100, and Young granted this 44 days in custody to be served concurrently.