KAMLOOPS - A B.C. Supreme Court justice has asked Crown and defence lawyers to prove that an admitted fraudster who bilked a senior out of more than $20,000 shouldn't be sent to prison.
Darren Sidwell, 44, has pleaded guilty to fraud.
Crown counsel Sarah Firestone said the episode began in the fall of 2011, when the victim who resides in the Interior village of Clinton replied to an ad posted on a community billboard offering services for hire.
Sidwell completed a small job by removing limbs from a tree, but he told the woman she had a drainage problem on her property.
"It was entirely a fiction," Firestone said in court on Tuesday.
Sidwell told the woman he needed money to help a cousin whose vehicle had broken down, to pay arrears on an orthotic foot brace for one of his children and to help his daughter, who he said was ill in B.C. Children’s Hospital, suffering a heart condition.
"While she does have a heart condition, she’s never been hospitalized," Firestone said.
Two cheques were also made out to accomplices who were never arrested.
The RCMP began investigating after a credit-union employee noticed the series of unusual withdrawals.
Firestone argued for a 12-month conditional sentence, consisting of house arrest and a restitution order that Sidwell repay the 76-year-old pensioner the money he defrauded her.
He has no assets.
Sidwell told a probation officer he is a "master manipulator."
Defence lawyer Chris Thompson argued for a six-month conditional sentence with a lighter curfew condition, arguing Sidwell is now rehabilitated.
But Justice Terrence Schultes said he needs to be convinced Sidwell shouldn't serve more than two years of federal time.
Sidwell has past convictions for possession of stolen property and theft.
"I need to start at step one and hear why this doesn't call for incarceration," Schultes said.
Thompson said Sidwell underwent extensive rehabilitation and counselling at a Prince George facility for 17 months.
He said his client suffered drug addiction and was abandoned by his family.
"His family has looked down on him as a lost cause," Thompson said, adding they now support him after his change.
Near the end of the sentencing hearing, a woman in the gallery who identified herself as Sidwell’s ex-wife blurted out that Sidwell is conning the legal system.
"I’ve heard this story a hundred times," she said.
"He’s owed me money for a long time.
"Where’s his family today that’s standing up for him?"
Lawyers are scheduled to return to court on Friday.
Schultes has asked them to present stronger legal arguments why Sidwell does not deserve a prison sentence.