North Van fraudster who targeted empty mansion owners sentenced

A fraud artist has been sentenced to 15 months in jail after pleading guilty to a host of charges related to mail theft, identity theft and use of stolen credit cards.

Between March 2018 and August 2019, Ali Serri, 42, targeted homes in the British Properties, looking for ones left vacant by foreign owners, North Vancouver Provincial Court heard in a sentencing hearing Nov. 22

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West Vancouver police began tailing him in February.

“That surveillance demonstrated the accused was the architect of an elaborate fraud and mail theft scheme. The surveillance also revealed that the accused is a serial, determined, persistent and patient fraud artist,” said Judge Joanne Challenger. “He would target specific residences primarily of Asian ownership, likely because many of those residents didn’t reside in the home or were rarely present.”

Serri would wait for the Canada Post trucks to leave and then steal the mail with personal information he could then use to apply for credit cards, which would be delivered to the same addresses, the court heard

He used the credit cards to purchase expensive computers and gift cards and to withdraw cash from ATMs.

All of the money he gained through the fraud was spent satisfying his gambling and methamphetamine addictions, the court heard.

West Vancouver police arrested Serri in April. He was released on bail but was caught reoffending and arrested again in June. He also walked from a recovery home where the court had ordered him to stay at in August and was later found in possession of methamphetamine.

In total, Serri defrauded $16,396 from his victims, most of which were businesses or banks.

Challenger noted the identity theft was deeply stressful for his mail theft victims, who didn’t know sensitive information had been compromised until they received their credit card bills.

The Crown had been seeking a sentence of 18 months in jail, plus two years’ probation.

Serri’s lawyer had asked for a suspended sentence, to be served in the community plus probation.

Challenger, however, said she could not allow Serri back out so soon, given his previous behaviour. He has been sober since August, but only because he has been in custody pending a trial, Challenger noted.

“I cannot be confident he can safely serve a sentence in the community. He has been released now twice on bail following his April 26 arrest and he went on to almost immediately reoffend. He was then taken back into custody and was released again with a $10,000 cash bail and was unable to maintain his clean lifestyle or remain at a treatment centre,” she said.

Given the time already served in custody since August, Serri will have another nine months on his sentence.

As part of his probation conditions, Serri will not be allowed to go to West Vancouver unless it is for his duties in his family’s business. He’s barred from visiting Nordstrom, Holt Renfrew or any London Drugs, and he must not go to any casinos.

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