SAULT STE. MARIE — Steven Tomei's interactions with a local couple turned into "an absolute nightmare for them," a judge said Monday.
As SooToday previously reported, the couple hired the Calgary man, who had recently relocated to Sault Ste. Marie, to renovate a home they owned on Third Avenue two years ago.
He didn't do the work, moved into the residence, didn't pay the rent and pawned some of their property.
Tomei pleaded guilty to defrauding the victims of $4,200 on Nov.14, 2021, and two counts of possession of stolen property.
The 47-year-old admitted he later sold three bass amplifiers to Second Hand World.
On Feb. 24 to 25 of last year, he again visited the Tancred Street pawn shop, where he exchanged four guitars for $350 cash.
The Crown and defence jointly recommended that Tomei receive an 18-month conditional sentence, which he would serve in the community, and two years probation.
The lawyers agreed that he should pay restitution to the victims.
Tomei has a "brief" criminal record that includes a 2011 conviction for fraud over $5,000, prosecutor Robert Skeggs said, noting there were no offences since then.
The accused is acknowledging three different criminal acts, which would have required three trials, and this is a mitigating factor, he said.
But the crimes involve breach of trust issues, which is aggravating, he told Ontario Court Justice Melanie Dunn.
The victims let him into their house, he was hired and paid to do renovations and the remodeling didn't occur, the assistant Crown attorney said.
"Some of their prized possessions were sold without their permission," Skeggs said.
They have been unsuccessful in getting one of the instruments back, which "is significant" to a musician.
Defence lawyer Anthony Orazietti said his client "did complete some drywall work."
Three of the four guitars were recovered as well as the three amps.
Tomei is a certified plumber and was working in construction but was laid off because of COVID-19.
He now resides in Bruce Mines, has health issues and receives Ontario Works, Orazietti said.
The court has to consider Tomei's ability to pay restitution, the defence said, suggesting he could make monthly payments.
When she imposed the sentence, Dunn referred to the couple's victim impact statement.
"It's clear this was an absolute nightmare for them" and the impact was profound and financial, the judge said.
"To make things worse, a person was living on their property and not paying rent."
This calls for a lengthy sentence of 18 months, followed by two years probation, Dunn said.
The first portion will be nine months of house arrest.
Tomei can only leave his property for medical emergencies and appointments, to drive his young child to and from school, or while in the company of the child.
He is allowed to be away from home between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Fridays to obtain the necessities of life.
During the final nine months, he will have a curfew between 10 p.m and 7 a.m.
"This is a jail sentence and you are not to possess or consume alcohol, drugs or other intoxicating substances," Dunn told him.
He can have no contact with the victims and must remain 50 metres away from them.
During his probation, he must take any recommended assessments, counselling or rehabilitative programs and have no communication with the complainants.
Tomei must pay $100 a month restitution during his sentence and probation (a total of $4,200).
At the request of the Crown, charges against a co-accused, Melissa Scheiber, were withdrawn.