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London courts: Shaun Hofmans fleeced businesses across Southwestern Ontario in crime spree judge called “deplorable”

By Jane Sims, The London Free Press

(London Free Press file photo)

(London Free Press file photo)

Fraudster extraordinaire Shaun Hofmans, who fleeced Southwestern Ontario businesses in a crime spree in the name of a fake cancer charity, stood in court and spoke in a voice a little louder than a whisper.

“I’m just asking for one chance,” he said Thursday after pleading guilty to more than 20 charges, boosting his criminal record to more than 100 convictions, about three-quarters of them for fraud.

“I have a very long record, I understand, but I can’t do this anymore,” he said.

But like the boy who cried wolf way too many times, Hofmans ran out of chances.

“He’s incorrigible,” said Ontario Court Justice John Skowronski, the same judge who sentenced Hofmans two years ago to eight months in jail for the same criminal nonsense that he ran out of his London basement apartment.

“This has been his occupation. It’s sad but true,” the judge said.

Scamming people for money in the name of a cancer charity, he said, is“brazen” and “deplorable.”

“How can you trust anything this man says?” Skowronski asked.

This time, instead of jail, the total sentence was four years in prison.

Factoring in time spent in custody since last April, Hofmans has two years and eight months left to serve.

Within weeks of completing his 2015 sentence, and despite an order from Skowronski banning him from any charity work for five years, Hofmans, 37, hit the road with cheque books for his fake charity SPH Cancer Foundation and began to tap mostly grocery stores — Foodlands, No Frills, Real Canadian Superstores, Walmarts, Shoppers Drug Mart, Food Basics — for gift cards of any value to hand out to the sick.

Deputy Crown Attorney David Rows told Skowronski that Hofmans would buy the gift cards with SPH cheques and sign them “Charles Paton,” the same surname as one of his best friends.

From January to April, there weren’t many towns and cities in the region he didn’t hit — Chatham, Dorchester, Ingersoll, St. Marys, Aylmer, London, Stratford, St. Thomas, Amherstburg. Leamington, Simcoe, Tillsonburg, Woodstock and Exeter. Some centres were hit more than once.

Hofmans would buy $1,000 worth of cards here, $900 worth there. The cheques were for bank accounts that were closed.

In the middle of the spree, he got caught in Petrolia in February 2016 trying to buy $950 in gift cards at a store and was sentenced in Sarnia to a total of three weeks in jail and ordered to stay out of Lambton County.

Within days, he was back at the scam.

Sometimes, for effect, Hofmans would wear hospital scrubs while he pitched his cancer charity to unsuspecting store managers. Once, a Shoppers Drug Mart manager in Dorchester got suspicious and found information online identifying Hofmans and SPH Cancer Foundation as frauds.

Another suspicious manager at a Chatham Shoppers Drug Mart, concerned about the cheque for $1,000 for a pre-paid Visa card, began to investigate when Hofmans fled the store. His image was caught on surveillance video.

He also activated three President Choice Mastercards using stolen identification from other people and withdrew about $8,000 from CIBC bank terminals in London.

Sometimes, he grew very emboldened. In January 2016, he stopped into a Jiffy Lube franchise in Brantford, wanting to pay for a recent car service with gift cards and have charges from days earlier put back on his debit card.

He pushed open the door to a manager to complain when he didn’t get his way.

The manager said any transaction would take time.

Days later, Hofmans sent a letter to the store, writing from “the Law Office of Charles Hunter” and posing as the fake lawyer in London demanding the charges be reversed or he’d to the media, the Brantford chamber of commerce and others about a “blatant disregard for Canadian business ethics.”

His defence lawyer, Nick Cake, made a pitch that all of Hofmans’ criminal activity was really a cry for help after an abusive childhood at the hands of his father.

Hofmans agreed to participate in a pre-sentence report for the first time and Cake said it gives insight that could set Hofmans on the road to rehabilitation.

For that reason, Cake suggested time served and 12 months of house arrest followed by three years of probation.

Hofmans has a poor sense of self-worth, Cake said, because his father said “he was going to be a loser.”

Hofmans has tried since to prove him wrong by trying to amass material wealth and “be a high roller.” Instead, Hofmans believes he has “fulfilled his father’s prophecy.”

“Rehabilitation and counselling is a far greater benefit to society than having him in the penitentiary,” Cake argued.

He’s employable, his lawyer said, and once ran his own call centre. He gave Cake $3,000 to put in trust for restitution, plus had money orders claiming he had paid others back.

Hofmans also claimed he was sexually assaulted by a cellmate at the Elgin-Middlessex Detention Centre and had an injury to his genitals.

Rows said police investigated the incident and there were “no grounds to lay charges whatsoever.”

The Crown said Hofmans has shown no respect for any court orders, including Skowronski’s and should be sent to prison.

The judge agreed and gave the exact sentence Rows suggested.

“This has got to stop. A line in the sand has to be drawn,” he said.

jsims@postmedia.com

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