Looking forward to a life of sobriety

A man who defrauded a Westlock resident of more than $6,000 through a check scheme has been sentenced to 59 days in custody and 18 months probation

BARRHEAD — A man who defrauded a Westlock woman of more than $6,000 through a check scheme, among other offences, received a 59-day aggregate sentence followed by 18 months probation at the session of August 9 from Barrhead Provincial Court.

Peter Joseph Byer pleaded guilty to one count of fraud under $5,000, mischief/damages under $5,000, breach of probation order and one count of breach of discharge order.

Judge Vaughn Myers accepted the sentence, which was a joint submission by the Crown and the defense, also ordered Byer to pay restitution of $3,323.32. Myers accepted defense counsel’s request to waive the victim surcharge.

As part of the joint submission, the Crown also withdrew several charges, including 12 counts of using a forged document; 11 counts of fraud under $5,000; three assaults with weapons; six counts of assault, one count of intentional burglary and one charge of mischief/damage under $5,000.

It should be mentioned that Byer has been in custody since July 3, and as of August 9, he has served 38 days, so with an enhanced time credit of one and a half years, his sentences are effectively served.

Byer’s attorney, Richard Forbes, noted that he waived his right as a person of Indigenous descent to a Gladue report.

A Gladue report is a pre-sentence report that the courts can use to consider the myriad of factors that can bring an Indigenous person into conflict with the law.

On fraud, Crown Attorney Anthony Estephan said that on June 16, 2018, a woman filed a complaint saying she was the victim of check fraud.

In her statement, Byer, the woman’s neighbor at the time, asked if she had any old checks her daughter could use for a school project.

“Since she was a schoolteacher, she told the defendant that she would give him some of her old checks,” Estephan said, noting that she had erased all relevant information, such as name, address and bank numbers before giving them to Byer.

A day before going to the RCMP, the woman learned that Byer had used the checks to withdraw money from her account when she looked at her latest bank statement.

“She noticed that several checks were cashed without her current banking information, consent or signature,” Estephan said, adding that the checks were made payable to an alias known to Byer.

As part of the RCMP investigation, he noted that the police had obtained an order for production of the accused’s banking information and determined that Byer had deposited a total of $6,646.64 into his account through several checks between March 19, 2018 and December 27, 2018.

“The visual copy of the checks was identical to the one (the woman) provided to Byer,” Estephan said.

The charge of mischief/damages under $5,000 stems from an incident on January 20, 2022, after Byer called Barrhead RCMP to report that his then-girlfriend of two years was threatening to press charges against him for damaging his property.

Three RCMP members responded, noting that officers had interviewed the couple separately.

Estephan said the girlfriend said they were in the bedroom, when Byer asked who she was texting as he was packing his things before going to work.

“(Byer) asked his then-girlfriend who she was texting. When she refused to answer, an argument ensued,” he said, adding that the girlfriend had accused Byer of breaking his hair straightener.

Estephan said the breach of a probation order was the result of an incident that began in early March 2022.

He noted that on March 2, Byer received 12 months probation in Westlock Provincial Court. Estephan did not say what charge Byer was found guilty of, but said that as part of his probation, he was required to report to probation authorities by March 9.

On March 22, a letter was sent to Byer’s last known address asking him to report to Westlock Community Corrections by April 8.

Estephan said Byer again failed to show up as instructed.

The latest charge, of breaching a bail order, to which Byer pleaded guilty stemmed from an incident that occurred in the summer of 2022.

Estephan said at 9:22 p.m. June 26, Barrhead RCMP responded to a domestic incident between Byer and his girlfriend.

“On the advice of his sister, (the girlfriend) left her house and called the RCMP from the hospital,” he said, adding that she told police that Byer had entered the house. house they previously shared and started shouting obscenities at her.

At the time, Byer’s release order prohibited him from being at the residence.

Estephan noted that Byer has a two-page criminal record with convictions from October 1996 to March 2022. However, only eight convictions were as an adult, including one obstruction charge in 2003 and three convictions for not appearing on court dates: two in 2006 and one in 2007. For the obstruction charge, Byer received a seven-day custodial sentence. For the non-appearance charges, he was sentenced to two fines (amounts not disclosed) as well as 30 days in police custody.

Byer also has two assault convictions, one in 2007 for which he received a 60-day custodial sentence, and another in March 2022 for which he received a 30-day suspended and 12-month suspended sentence. of probation.

Estephan said that when making his sentencing recommendation, he considered several factors, including Byer’s early guilty plea, thereby eliminating the need for the plaintiff to testify. The action shows he takes responsibility for his actions, Estephan said.

He added that aggravating factors included his recent and related criminal record, and criminal convictions for which Byer received custodial sentences. Estephan also said he found it “disturbing” that some of these incidents happened in the context of domestic abuse.

But he said the Crown realizes that many of Byer’s problems stem from substance abuse and mental health issues.

“Taking everything into consideration, it’s an appropriate and appropriate sentence, although perhaps on the lower end,” Estephan said.

Forbes noted that his client is sober and is trying hard to stay that way,

Byer, who appeared via CCTV at the Edmonton Remand Centre, said he was thrilled to move on with his life.

“I want to focus on living sober and improving my children’s lives,” he said.

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