WINNIPEG - A former Winnipeg insurance broker who bilked his clients out of more than $1.5 million has been sentenced to eight years in prison.
Gary Palmer, 64, received one of the harshest penalties for white-collar crime in recent Manitoba history. Queen’s Bench Justice Perry Schulman had strong words for Palmer, who ruined the lives of his many victims.
The Crown was seeking a seven-year sentence for Palmer, who pleaded guilty earlier this year to 15 counts of fraud related to nearly two dozen victims. Schulman took the unusual step of imposing an even longer period of custody.
Palmer, who is acting as his own lawyer, didn't specifically tell the court what sentence he is seeking.
Palmer was arrested in October 2006. He persuaded numerous clients to make withdrawals from their investments on the premise he would transfer the money into higher-performing funds. He took the money for his own personal use, including vacations, car payments and family expenses, court was told.
"He used the victims' money as his own personal piggy bank," Crown attorney Steve Johnston said last week during sentencing submissions.
Palmer was working as an independent agent with Great-West Lifeco Inc. over the years he swindled the victims, who ranged from wealthy professionals to single parents. The Crown said he was making a legitimate six-figure income but got greedy.
The court heard from several of Palmer's victims through written statements.
One man told court he'd like to get Palmer "for five minutes alone in a room, " while others spoke about broken relationships and health issues, which they blamed on Palmer's deceit.
Palmer read a letter of apology in court on Friday.
"I profoundly regret my actions. I really can't state it any other way," he said. "We're broken by the fact this has happened, that people have been hurt by what transpired."
Schulman questioned Palmer's sincerity. "It's called empathy. I don't see any," the judge said.