A young Montrealer who was caught two years ago operating a "credit card factory" out of a rented downtown condo was given a 5½-year prison sentence this afternoon.
Kevin Guo, 22, had pleaded guilty in April to 64 charges of credit card fraud and stealing personal identification.
Provincial Court Judge Mary Kate Harvie said evidence collected by police revealed that Guo and his co-accused, Benjamin Harvey Langton, 28, likely would have continued their fraud across the country had they not been caught by Winnipeg Police.
Guo was arrested by police Nov. 23, 2011 after he tried to use a fake credit card to buy a high-end camera at a Henry’s camera store on Kenaston Boulevard. When police searched his rented condo, they found hundreds of blank credit cards, a thermal printer and hologram stickers of major credit card companies.
On Guo’s personal computer, police found credit card information on more than 2,000 people plus personal identification from passports and drivers licenses on more than 1,600 additional individuals.
During a sentencing hearing this afternoon, Harvie explained that Guo fell into the credit card scheme after meeting Langton, a native of the United Kingdom, at a comic book store in Montreal in August of 2011. The two men purchased the credit card information from another individual on-line and then began a fraud spree across southern Ontario and Quebec, purchasing expensive cameras and equipment using faked credit cards and then selling the goods for cash.
The pair moved to Winnipeg in November, using a fake credit card to rent a new Mustang and a two-bedroom condo. They were able to victimize two local camera stores before alert staff at Henry’s – who had been aware of the duo’s activities in Ontario – contacted Winnipeg police.
Guo sat expression-less during the sentencing. None of Guo’s family or friends appeared to have attended court this afternoon.
Harvie said a letter from Guo’s father, referenced by defence counsel Len Tailleur, described Guo as a one-time excellent high school student who developed bad habits after he got interested in gaming.
Guo’s father described his son as "immature" and "a lost lamb who had mixed up his own fantasy with illusion of the real world."
After his arrest, Guo told police that he had quit business school because he was eager to make some fast money.
"School didn’t get me what I wanted," Guo told Winnipeg police. "It was a waste of time …. I just wanted more money."
Harvie noted that Guo was only 20 when he met Langton, who she described as being not only older but highly intelligent, sophisticated and worldly. Langton had similar convictions in Germany and San Diego before hooking up with Guo.
Langton was given a six-year sentence last year for his role. Crown attorney Don Melnyk was seeking a total of seven years for Guo: five years for the Winnipeg crimes, one year for the Ontario and Quebec offences; and a further one year for belonging to a criminal organization.
Harvie said she agreed with sentencing Guo to a combined two years for the out-of-province offences and belonging to a criminal organization but said several factors -- his young age, no similar criminal record, he pleaded guilty – warranted only an additional 3½ years for the Winnipeg offences.
Harvie said Guo’ sentence will be reduced by the 20 months he has served in custody since his arrest.