Bonamie sentenced to three years in prison

Restitution paid mitigating factor in Edouard Bonamie sentencing.

Edouard Bonamie pleaded guilty to three counts of theft over $5,000 and one count of uttering forged documents in June 2022. He was sentenced in Ottawa at the Elgin Street Courthouse on April 11, 2024. (The Leader/Blancher photo)

OTTAWA – Following a significant number of delays since his 2022 guilty plea, time has run out for Iroquois-based developer and convicted fraudster Edouard Bonamie.

Justice Ann Alder delivered her sentence at the Ontario Court of Justice in Ottawa April 11.

Bonamie, 75, was sentenced to three years (36 months) in prison. A restitution order for $550,000 US was also issued, as was an order to provide a DNA sample. He will receive 10 months credit against his prison term due to his pre-trial incarceration.

Bonamie pleaded guilty in June 2022 to three counts of fraud over $5,000 and one count of uttering a forged document. He had been charged in December 2021 with seven charges relating to the crimes. Bonamie had been released out on bail since June 2022, pending the outcome of the case.

The three fraud charges are related to three yacht sale schemes by Bonamie. The first victim, a then 76 year old man from the United States, was defrauded of $250,000 US by Bonamie for the sale of a boat. Bonamie represented himself as a broker. The victim received documents with the forged signature of the boat’s previous owner – but did not receive a boat.

The second victim, from Quebec, attempted four subsequent boat purchases with Bonamie acting as the broker. Before each deal fell through, more money was paid as a deposit to Bonamie. On the fourth boat purchase attempt, the seller did not want to use a broker. The victim and seller negotiated a sale directly. When the victim asked for the money to be returned, Bonamie did not do so. That victim had paid $190,000 and did go to civil court for a judgement against Bonamie.

The third victim, from Toronto, was defrauded of $550,000. He had contacted Bonamie as a broker, and travelled to the Gulf of St. Lawrence for a sea-trial on the yacht. Bonamie claimed the yacht was his: it was not. No sale was transacted.

The court heard from Crown Prosecutor Caroline Thibault and investigating Ottawa Police Service Detective Steven Desjourdy that they had confirmed that victims one and two had received the full amount of restitution required. Victim three had not.

Until the sentencing was read Thursday, some details of the case were protected by a Section 517 publication ban under the Criminal Code. With the criminal matter now concluded, the publication ban is no longer in force. Out of respect, The Leader is not naming the victims or providing specific location information that may identify the victims.

Speaking about all three victims, Justice Alder said that in addition to Bonamie’s criminality, he breached the trust of the victims with the type of fraud committed.

“They are unrelated victims. This occurred over the course of several years This is not a situation where the accused is an inexperienced business person who gets in over their head and in an attempt to fulfill obligations, resorts to fraud,” she explained. “Mr. Bonamie may have believed he was entitled to take the money from these two victims as he felt wronged by them. But given his history, given his comments, given this was a conscience choice he made to obtain his own form of justice, I find that I cannot in any way diminish his moral blameworthiness.”

Alder said the harm to the victims financially was an aggravating factor. Specifically to the US-based victim, she said this was an older individual, who suffered not only financial loss, but an emotional loss.

“[The victim] is now 82 years old. He’s now only received that money in the last few days. He should have been enjoying his life these last few years, but yet at 76 he was forced to deal with this situation. He felt a sense of betrayal. He was forced to deal with emotions such as anxiousness, fearfulness, a loss of trust, and anger, which only continued over the years.”

Alder spoke to the loss of the other two victims too. One had to take out a loan to pay for the money loss, and both victims had suffered stress and anxiety, along with their families. She noted that the Toronto victim has not yet been paid any restitution.

Working in Bonamie’s favour in court was his guilty plea, which saved the court system time and resources, along with saving victims from having to testify. His payment of restitution to two of the three victims was also a factor. Details of how the restitution amounts were raised was not confirmed. However it was revealed in court that the funds were handled through the trust account of another lawyer retained by Bonamie specifically to handle the restitution disbursement.

“Also mitigating is that Mr. Bonamie has a supportive partner who has been there throughout the process,” said Alder. “I no doubt she will continue to be there for him.”

Bonamie’s common-law wife, Patricia Theriault sat in court beside him while the sentence was read. The couple was expressionless as Alder delivered the sentence.

In the defence sentencing submission, lawyer Eric Granger cited the gap between his last offence in 2009 and the offences in 2017 as proof Bonamie is capable of going without re-offending.

“He may be, as council referred to as ‘aging out,’ said Alder. “In this case I agree the gap may suggest that Mr. Bonamie is capable of not re-offending. But the issue is really, whether he is willing to not re-offend. His behaviour suggests he has not. These are not offences of opportunity. These are not spur of the moment offences. These are not errors in judgement. These are not loss of inhibition due to substance abuse. These are three calculated offences over the course of several years. I find the gap alone does little to suggest that the prospect of rehabilitation is significant nor does it reduce the need for specific deterrence in this case.”

Alder continued that the offences were not historical.

“These type of offences can be committed at any age, and that’s clear looking at the dates involved here,” she said. “We can hope Mr. Bonamie has ‘aged out’ as defence claimed but I find there is little reassurance that he has.”

The defence sought a sentence lower than the two year minimum, with it being served in the community. The Crown’s submission sought a sentence of five years, with credit for his pre-trial custody.

“Mr. Bonamie deliberately defrauded each of the victims in this case of a significant amount of money. Three unrelated victims. Three separate scenarios over the course of several years. Mr. Bonamie minimizes his responsibility and appears to lack insight – it is almost as if he believes he has a sense of entitlement.”

Alder credited that he had been honest with the court.

“He did say he did not want to insult the court’s intelligence by saying he is someone whom he is not. Who Mr. Bonamie is is someone who for decades has repeatedly defrauded people, has repeatedly committed offences. It may be because of some belief he is entitled to, it may be some form of vigilante justice. But Mr. Bonamie has lived his life according to his own terms. He has not been deterred from committing offences despite spending many years of his life – close if not more – than a decade, in custody. He is an intelligent man. He was aware of the risks that he was taking and it appears that he did not care. Despite his age, his expression of remorse, and the comment about the fact that his career is over, I find that specific deterrence remains an important consideration.”

Justice Alder said the bulk of Bonamie’s past convictions were for fraud. She read in court a list of the fraud convictions dating to 1972, 1976, 1978, 1981, 1993, 1998 and 2004. She continued that Bonamie had been released from prison twice having served part of a sentence, and had violated the terms of that release both times. Bonamie’s previous run of convictions began in Quebec, and continued into British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan. To date, he has served over 10 years in prison.

“What sets this case apart is Mr. Bonamie’s prior criminal record, and blatant disregard for the law and the harm his action causes his victims. I find that the total sentence to be proportionate in this case is clearly in the three-to-five year range, and if it were not for the mitigating factors – and were not particularly for the restitution in this case – they would be clearly be closer if not above the upper end of the range.”

She said that she found restitution was an important factor and that it was unfortunate that one of the victims had not yet been repaid.

“What sets this case apart from all the others is the prior criminal record and the history of criminal behaviour. Given all the circumstances, all the mitigating factors, I am satisfied that a sentence of three years is appropriate. Mr. Bonamie, had it not been the restitution to [Victim 1] and [Victim 2], the sentence I had been considering was in the range of four to four-and-a-half years.”

The court credited Bonamie with 10 months against the three year sentence for his time in pre-trial custody, shortening his time in federal prison from 36 months to 26 months or two years and two months.

Justice Alder sided with the Crown that the Victim Surcharge would still apply given Bonamie’s ownership of a Masarati and extensive property holdings.

Bonamie was taken from court by an police officer for DNA testing as the case was adjourned.

Constitutional Challenge

One of the delays to sentencing Bonamie was a Constitutional Challenge to sentencing minimums, filed by Granger in April 2023. Alder said at the start of the April 11, 2024 sentencing that court precedent shows that if a minimum sentence was to be given, then the Constitutional Challenge would be heard. If the sentence was not the minium, there was no need for a Constitutional Challenge to be heard. The minimum sentence for conviction of fraud over $5,000 is two years, the maximum is 14 years.

Civil Cases

While the criminal proceedings against Bonamie have concluded, several civil matters continue on through the civil court system. This includes judgements in civil court against Bonamie, his common-law wife Patricia Theriault, and her company, South Dundas Waterfront Development Corporation. To date, over $3.7 million in civil litigation has been filed, with over $2 million in judgements issued.

Additionally, some properties that had been owned by the SDWDC have been Seized under the federal Mortgages Act for non-payment, and subsequently sold or listed for sale.

Lastly, there is civil litigation filed by the law firm that represented Bonamie, Theriault, and the SDWDC – Gowling WLG – which is seeking payment for nearly $100,000 in unpaid legal fees spanning 18 months.

Since you’re here…

… Thanks for reading this article. Local news is important. We hope that you continue to support local news in your community by reading The Leader, online and in print. Please consider subscribing to the print edition of the newspaper. Click here to subscribe today.

Subscribe to Email Alerts

Enter your email address to subscribe to Email Alerts and receive notifications of new posts by email whenever The Leader publishes new content on our website.