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Man sentenced for bilking friend in investment scheme

It must have seemed like a dream come true: A small financial investment explodes into a six-figure windfall.

But it was too good to be true, part of an elaborate scam a Winnipeg man spent several years pulling on his good friend.

Garth Gillespie, 38, was given a six-month conditional jail sentence Thursday after pleading guilty to fraud. He was also placed on two years of supervised probation and ordered to pay back the $33,000 he conned out of his victim.

"It's an aggravating circumstance he took advantage of his friendship. He strung him along," said provincial court Judge Lee Ann Martin.

Gillespie would face time in jail under new federal sentencing guidelines, but his crime occurred prior to legislative changes that outlawed conditional sentences. As part of his penalty, he will be under house arrest every day from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Gillespie claims he never set out to betray his friend when he tricked the man into thinking he was cashing in big in the potentially lucrative world of currency trading and persuaded him to get involved.

The victim agreed to give Gillespie $5,000 in June 2007, court was told. Six months later, Gillespie was providing seemingly authentic financial documents that showed the man's investment had grown to $22,000.

Gillespie then convinced the victim to pony up an additional $28,000, which he ultimately claimed had come to be worth more than $100,000.

In reality, Gillespie never invested a single penny of his pal's cash.

He deposited it directly into his own bank account, then forged bogus documents to cover up his deceit.

The whole thing fell apart in 2010 when the friend -- now wishing to cash in some of his profits -- grew suspicious when Gillespie stopped returning his calls.

The accused fled the city and was located several months later living in Alberta.

Gillespie was charged and immediately expressed remorse, saying he always intended to pay the victim back.

"He feels betrayed and deeply disappointed," Martin said Thursday in summarizing the victim's impact statement.

Gillespie had no criminal record and is currently unemployed, court was told. The married father of two appeared Thursday with a cheque for $4,000 to begin the process of paying his victim back.

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