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Vehicle-insurance fraudster gets suspended sentence

THE book is nearly closed on an elaborate, never-before-seen scam that bilked Manitoba taxpayers of more than $800,000.

Jasmyne Garand-Jones pleaded guilty Tuesday to her role in the largest vehicle-insurance fraud case in provincial history. She joins 29 other co-accused who have previously disposed of their cases, leaving just a handful of suspects before the courts.

Garand-Jones, 24, was given a year-long suspended sentence and ordered to pay nearly $8,000 in restitution. Her penalty is similar to what the majority of other accused have received.

Police began investigating in 2005 after learning dozens of used cars with hefty mileage were being purchased in Ontario for cheap, brought to Manitoba and altered to reflect greatly reduced odometer readings, which increased their value. The accused would then make phoney "sales" to each other, insure the vehicle at the increased price and then stage a series of accidents and thefts in order to cash in.

In Garand-Jones's case, she was involved in buying a 1999 Lincoln Navigator that had 179,000 kilometres on it, only to be magically reduced to 95,000 km by the criminal organization. The group then staged a car crash, and Garand-Jones made a claim to Manitoba Public Insurance. She was given a $2,400 payment for repairs.

Weeks later, Garand-Jones reported the same vehicle had been stolen and was eventually given a $16,600 settlement from MPI.

In reality, the vehicle was worth far less with its legitimate odometer reading. And it hadn't really been stolen, just hidden away.

Police arrested Garand-Jones and the co-accused in 2009 as part of Project Rollback.

Defence lawyer Ian Histed told court Tuesday his client got involved at the request of other family members, who were also charged and asked her to do them a favour.

"She blinded herself to what was going on," he said.

Garand-Jones has no prior criminal record and is a single mother of two young children, court was told.

Queen's Bench Justice Brenda Keyser rejected her bid for a discharge, which would avoid having a conviction on her record. She said people such as Garand-Jones are "instrumental" in allowing these types of scams to succeed.


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