A Surrey man who was sentenced in October of last year to three years in prison for defrauding a childhood friend and his wife of $500,000 has had the restitution order reduced by half on appeal.
According to a B.C. Court of Appeal decision posted to bccourts.ca on Monday (Nov. 29), Ravinder Paul Mangat appealed his sentence on several grounds, including that the provincial court judge had erred in treating his failure to appear on the second day of trial as an aggravating factor in determining sentence, and by imposing the restitution order as an add-on to the three-year custodial term.
While appeal-court judges agreed there was an error in finding that his absconding at trial was an aggravating factor, they found it did not have a material impact on the sentence imposed.
With regard to the restitution order, the judges found that the trial judge “erred in principle in his approach” to it, and instead deemed $250,000 “fit and proportionate.”
Mangat was sentenced on Oct. 29, 2020 to three years in prison and ordered to pay the restitution following a criminal investigation by the B.C. Securities Commission that led to a conviction on two counts of criminal fraud over $5,000.
Initially arrested by the Vancouver Police Department in 2017, at trial, the court heard that Mangat had approached a childhood friend and his wife in 2012 about a “fictitious investment scheme” described as the ‘Privileged Investment Club.’
“The (trial) judge described the documentation prepared by Mr. Mangat for the fraudulent scheme as ‘quite sophisticated,’” appeal court Justice G. Bruce Butler writes in the judgment.
Rather than investing the $500,000 as promised, Mangat “used it to support his lifestyle, including lavish trips to Las Vegas and a cocaine habit,” Butler continues.
“At trial, the Crown was able to trace approximately $281,000 to travel and living expenditures. The balance, approximately $219,000, was taken out of the appellant’s bank account in cash.”
At the time of sentencing, Mangat was “47 years old, lived with his parents and had a very modest income.” He had no criminal record prior to the fraud, but his mental health had been significantly impacted by the death in 1991 of his oldest sister, the judgment states.
“He used alcohol excessively as an adult and began to experiment with cocaine in 2010. For the following six years, he partied and used cocaine frequently.”
In determining sentence, the trial judge considered Crown’s submissions that the magnitude of the fraud and that Mangat had abused of a position of trust were significant aggravating factors.
Defence counsel – Mangat was self-represented at trial, but had a lawyer at the sentencing hearing, the appeal-court judgment notes – contended the scheme was not sophisticated; that the offence was committed during a time when Mangat was struggling financially and using cocaine; that by the time of sentencing he was no longer using drugs and was “motivated to change his ways”; that he wanted to make restitution when able; and, that he had expressed remorse.
Butler found “little merit” to Mangat’s submission that the length of his custodial sentence was unfit. Regarding the restitution order, however, he noted that the trial judge – in discussion following the delivery of his reasons for sentence – had indicated that the appellant “could win a lottery.” A restitution order, Butler added, was not referenced in the reasons for sentence.
“It is apparent from the reasons and what transpired at the sentencing hearing that the judge added the restitution order as a ‘mechanical afterthought,’ with the justification that Mr. Mangat might win a lottery,” Butler notes.
“Having added the substantial restitution order to the custodial sentence he imposed, he did not consider the totality of the sentence.”
Reducing the amount owed to $250,000, writes Butler, “balances the gravity of the offence and the degree of the appellant’s responsibility, and adequately considers the primary objectives of denunciation and deterrence.”
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