BY KEITH LACEY
A former Sudbury car dealer found guilty of being involved in a Quebec-based auto theft ring appeared rattled and shocked when handed a 15-month jail sentence Wednesday.
Richard Toulouse, 36, was found guilty June 30 of 10 of 16 counts he was facing following a trial that took up 25 days of court time over several months.
Toulouse owned and operated the former Auto Mart Sudbury Ltd. in Garson in the late 1990s. He was found guilty of four counts of possession of stolen property over $5,000 obtained by crime, two counts of possession of stolen property under $5,000 obtained by crime and four counts of fraud over $5,000.
Justice Randall Lalande said members of the community would be outraged if anything less than a jail sentence was imposed as ?auto theft is not a victimless crime,? and the evidence was overwhelming Toulouse was actively involved in purchasing and selling stolen automobiles and parts and
one expensive camper trailer.
It took an intensive investigation by numerous police services over several months to trace many of the vehicles purchased and sold by Toulouse out of his dealership, said Lalande.
?These prosecutions (auto theft rings) tend to be tedious, difficult and costly,? said the veteran judge.
While there are many mitigating factors in Toulouse?s favour, the fact he engaged in criminal activity over such a long period of time and ripped off so
many people cry out for a jail sentence, said Lalande.
After Lalande read his decision, Toulouse?s lawyer Craig Fleming asked that his client be allowed some time to get his affairs in order before starting to serve his sentence. However, Lalande agreed with assistant Crown attorney Karen Lische that he could have brought a motion before the court asking for an adjournment before a decision was rendered.
Toulouse?s assertion that he didn?t know the vehicles or parts he was purchasing were stolen don?t hold up under any kind of scrutiny and didn?t have ?the ring of truth? when he testified, said Lalande.
?He closed his eyes to the obvious...the courts must send a message that these types of crimes will be dealt with seriously,? he said.
The court must look at all the circumstances of any case before deciding if a conditional sentence to be served in the community is appropriate. The scope and nature of these crimes don?t allow for a conditional sentence to be considered in this case, he said.
Members of the public demand that licensed car dealers possess integrity, honesty and use fair business practices and those who don?t and engage in illegal activity should expect to go to jail if caught and convicted, said Lalande.
Lalande went out of his way to mention all of the mitigating factors in Toulouse?s favour in rendering his lengthy decision.
Toulouse ran a very successful used car dealership ?and was an aggressive, successful businessman? until making the conscious decision to get
involved in illegal activity, said Lalande.
He?s also a ?very good father? to his two children and two stepchildren, he said.
Since seeking counselling since his conviction, Toulouse has acknowledged his responsibility in these events and realizes he has made a mistake, he said. ?At some point...he began to derail...and made contact with the auto theft industry...he became contaminated,? he said.
Fleming was obviously upset following the decision and could be heard talking to members of Toulouse?s family.
While there are no grounds to appeal Lalande?s verdict, he believes there are grounds to appeal the sentence, said Fleming.
It?s expected Toulouse will serve his sentence at the Monteith Correctional Facility in Timmins.
Since being arrested and convicted, Toulouse has lost his licence to sell vehicles in Ontario.