Humboldt Broncos GoFundMe fraudster found guilty

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Humboldt Broncos GoFundMe fraudster found guilty in Saskatoon
WATCH: The judge said the evidence wasn’t complicated in delivering his verdict – Jan 17, 2020

A Saskatchewan man fabricated a story about a door-to-door canvasser and defrauded thousands of dollars from Humboldt Broncos GoFundMe donors, a Saskatoon judge ruled Friday.

Judge Brent Klause found Andrij Olesiuk guilty of charges including fraud under $5,000 and possession of property obtained by crime.

Klause said the evidence wasn’t complicated in delivering his verdict.

He said he didn’t believe Olesiuk’s story about the woman at his door, saying no sensible person would’ve turned over thousands of dollars. He kept the Broncos money for his own use.

“It is too incredible a story to believe,” Klause said.

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During trial in December, Olesiuk — also known as Jay Max Olesiuk — denied having ill intentions when he created a crowdfunding page titled #PrayForHumboldt.

Taking the stand in his own defence, Olesiuk said he started the campaign to support families affected by the crash that killed 16 people and injured 13 others on April 6, 2018.

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A separate GoFundMe page eventually raised $15.1 million. Olesiuk’s effort brought in just under $3,800 and nearly $3,700 was direct deposited into his account.

According to Olesiuk’s testimony, a woman came to his Martensville, Sask. doorstep on April 24, soliciting donations for a Broncos charitable event. Rather than donate his fund directly to the Broncos, Olesiuk decided to give $4,100 in cash to her, he said.

The accused said he didn’t remember the woman’s name or organization.

Crown prosecutor Darren Howarth argued the “mysterious woman” didn’t exist and Olesiuk’s defence was “ridiculous.”

Click to play video: 'Humboldt Broncos GoFundMe fraudster found guilty'
Humboldt Broncos GoFundMe fraudster found guilty

Referencing a transaction log, Howarth said Olesiuk approved a $3,300 payment from GoFundMe to his account one day before the woman allegedly appeared. He received the payment on April 25, 2018.

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“What are the odds…. that this lady just happened to show up in between the dates he initiated the withdrawal and received the money?” Howarth asked.

Olesiuk told court he received a receipt from the woman days later in his mailbox. However, the receipt wasn’t admitted as evidence during trial because the man said it was lost in a February 2019 house fire.

The defence entered a thank you note as an exhibit, which Olesiuk testified he received immediately after his donation to the unnamed woman. Under cross-examination, he admitted to never telling police or the Crown about the note.

Olesiuk said the note was in his garage, but an RCMP constable said officers never found it during a Nov. 20, 2018, search carried out at Olesiuk’s property.

Defence lawyer John Rozdilsky said Olesiuk didn’t hide parts of his story, like the facts he set up the crowdfunding page and how the Broncos were never paid.

Olesiuk was “neither argumentative nor evasive” and could recall the woman’s appearance and apparel, just not her name, Rozdilsky argued.

“During those times, I think people were trusting that money would get where it had to get,” Rozdilsky said.

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Sentencing is scheduled for March 3.

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