A former West Vancouver man who promised people tickets to some of the most sought-after events at the 2010 Winter Olympics, then bilked them for more than $60,000 has been placed under a curfew for a year.
Judge Joanne Challenger handed the one-year conditional sentence to 33-year-old Sean Stuart on Wednesday after Stuart pleaded guilty to fraud over $5,000 in connection with the year-long scam.
One California man lost $15,000 to Stuart. The other 25 people he scammed came from all over North America and lost amounts ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.
Crown prosecutor Jim Bird said for many of the people duped by Stuart, the scam wasn't just about losing money - it was also about the disappointment of losing out on their Olympic dreams.
Bird said Stuart launched his scam around the same time that official Olympic tickets went on sale - about a year before the games began in February 2010. Because
the tickets were sold through a lottery system, and not everyone who wanted tickets to events was able to get them, there was quite a secondary market for tickets, said Bird.
Stuart advertised tickets to some of the top-flight Olympic events like the gold medal men's hockey final, figure skating and the opening ceremonies on sites like Craigslist and Kijiji. At the time, a pair of tickets to the men's hockey final were selling for up to $2,000. To convince people he actually had the tickets for sale, Stuart would get images from other legitimate ticket sellers on the Internet.
The scam was quite detailed, said Bird, with Stuart going into the location of the seats in the various venues and haggling over the price. Stuart's duped customers sent money to his bank account in West Vancouver.
Stuart then stalled the people who thought they'd bought Olympic tickets, while they booked flights and hotel reservations in Vancouver. Finally, in the days before the games actually began, Stuart sent out an email telling people that they wouldn't be receiving their tickets because he hadn't received them. In most cases, however, he had told his potential customers that he already had the tickets.
Bird said all of the people Stuart scammed were very disappointed, because it was "very difficult or impossible" to replace the tickets they thought they'd bought. Most did eventually make it to some Olympic events, however.
Stuart was tracked by a West Vancouver police officer who followed a complicated electronic and paper trail to find him.
In handing down her sentence, Challenger said Stuart had "tarnished the ideal of the Olympics."
She handed Stuart a 12-month conditional sentence with a curfew of 9 p.m. and 100 hours of community work service.
She also ordered Stuart to pay back the victims of his fraud.
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