The book is nearly closed on an elaborate, never-before-seen scam that bilked Manitoba taxpayers out of more than $800,000.
Jasmyne Garand-Jones pleaded guilty Tuesday to her role in the largest vehicle insurance fraud case in provincial history. She joins 29 other co-accused who have previously disposed of their cases, leaving just a handful of suspects before the courts.
Garand-Jones, 24, was given a year-long suspended sentence and ordered to pay nearly $8,000 in restitution. Her penalty is similar to what the majority of other accused have received.
Police began investigating in 2005 after learning dozens of used cars with hefty mileage were being purchased in Ontario, brought to Manitoba and altered to reflect greatly reduced odometer readings, which increased their value. The accused would then make phony "sales" to each other, insure the vehicle at the increased price and then stage a series of accidents and thefts in order to cash in.
In Garand-Jones’ case, she was involved in buying a 1999 Lincoln Navigator with an odometer reading of 179,000 kilometres. That was reduced to 95,000 kilometres by the criminal organization. The group then staged a car crash, which prompted Garand-Jones to make a claim to Manitoba Public Insurance. She was given a $2,400 payment for repairs.
Weeks later, Garand-Jones reported the same vehicle had been stolen and was eventually given a $16,600 settlement from MPI. In reality, the vehicle was worth far less with its legitimate odometer reading. And it hadn’t really been stolen, just hidden away.
Police arrested Garand-Jones and the co-accused in 2009 as part of Project Rollback.
Defence lawyer Ian Histed told court Tuesday his client got involved at the request of other family members who were also charged and asked her to do them a favour.
"She blinded herself to what was going on," he said. Garand-Jones has no prior criminal record and is a single mother with two young children, court was told.
Queen’s Bench Justice Brenda Keyser rejected her bid for a discharge, which would have prevented her from having a conviction on her record. Keyser said people like Garand-Jones are "instrumental" in allowing these types of scams to succeed.
"These fraudulent schemes affect all Manitobans and needs to be denounced soundly," she said.