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Old 11-07-2007, 04:15 PM   #1
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Default High-tech thief gets 8 years for string of thefts, frauds

High-tech thief gets 8 years for string of thefts, frauds

Helped finance international terrorism, court hears

Last Updated: Wednesday, November 7, 2007 | 4:05 PM CT

CBC News


A man described by police as one of the most sophisticated criminal masterminds they've ever seen was sentenced to eight years in prison Wednesday in a case that involved a global theft ring and terrorist financing.
Prior to being sentenced on Wednesday, Gerald Blanchard, 35, pleaded guilty in a Winnipeg court to 16 charges for his involvement in robberies and fraud schemes across Canada and abroad.
Blanchard, seen in a 2002 Winnipeg Police arrest photo. Police seized a dozen drivers licences from Manitoba, Alberta and elsewhere with Blanchard's photo, issued under different names.
(CBC)
Taking into account a year spent in pretrial custody, six years remain in his sentence.
He was also ordered to pay $500,000 in restitution to the victims of his schemes.
The provincial court also learned Wednesday that one of the high-tech crimes Blanchard said his criminal organization committed involved funnelling money from stolen credit cards to Kurdish rebels and possibly other groups labelled terrorists by some governments.
Aside from orchestrating robberies at financial institutions in Alberta, Manitoba, Montreal and B.C. including the Alberta Treasury Board Blanchard's organization made some overseas trips on behalf of a London-based man the Crown would only refer to as "the Boss," court heard.
Blanchard and two Canadians went to Egypt to use fraudulently obtained credit cards and debit information, sometimes wearing burkas to conceal their faces as they withdrew hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash from financial institutions.
They then sent some of the proceeds to "the Boss" in England, the Crown said.
In wiretap recordings played in court, Blanchard could be heard saying the Boss would be using that money to finance activities of Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq.
Crown Attorney Sheila Leinburd wouldn't give the name of the London connection, but said European police and Scotland Yard know who "the Boss" is. It is not yet clear whether he's been arrested.
In another twist, Blanchard admitted in court that among a string of thefts he committed, he was able to swipe the Sisi Star, a diamond-and-pearl piece of jewelry that belonged to a former empress of Austria. Police found the pendant at a house in Vancouver.
Blanchard was arrested in January after an investigation led by Winnipeg police in 2004. The arrest followed the brazen robbery of a Winnipeg CIBC branch in which $500,000 was stolen from the bank the day before its grand opening.
The arrangement on Blanchard's charges does not include the other seven co-accused named in the police operation that followed, called Project Kite.
Blanchard could have faced a maximum sentence of a total of 160 years in prison, for the 16 charges to which he pleaded guilty.
With files from the Canadian Press
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Old 11-17-2007, 06:33 PM   #2
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