SASKATOON — A man who set up a fake online fundraiser for the Humboldt Broncos following the Saskatchewan hockey team’s deadly bus crash has been sentenced to 14 months in jail.
Andrij Olesiuk was found guilty in January by a provincial court judge in Saskatoon of fraud under $5,000 and possession of stolen property obtained by crime.
During Tuesday’s sentencing, he also pleaded guilty to an investment fraud worth $65,000 that took place before the Broncos fundraiser.
Olesiuk, 33, offered remorse for his crimes through his lawyer.
“He is the author of his own misfortune,” said defence counsel John Rozdilsky.
Court heard Olesiuk raised about $3,900 through a GoFundMe account after the crash, but instead of the money going to the team, it was deposited into his personal account and spent.
During his trial, Olesiuk testified he closed down his account and gave $4,100 in cash to a woman who had come to his door collecting donations for the Broncos.
Court heard he lost the donation receipt in a house fire and couldn’t remember which organization the woman collecting donations was affiliated with.
Sixteen people were killed and thirteen others were injured when a bus carrying members of the Broncos junior hockey team collided with a semi-truck at a rural intersection in April 2018.
Crown prosecutor Darren Howarth called Olesiuk’s testimony “deceptive.”
“Taking advantage of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash is, to put it delicately, clearly reprehensible,” Howarth said outside court.
“If you’re going to take advantage of people in that way, find easy ways to take advantage of people, if you get caught, you’ll be prosecuted and you’ll go to jail.”
Court heard GoFundMe reimbursed the donors to the fake account. It also heard that the crime was likely only discovered because of a police investigation into the larger fraud.
In that scheme, Olesiuk posed as a financial trader in cannabis stocks for a fake company that he pitched to a couple from British Columbia, including with a bogus business card and documents that appeared real, said Howarth.
That couple then invited another family member to make investments. A total of $65,000 was stolen from the trio from March 2017 to February 2018, which resulted in strained family relationships, court heard.
The only time Olesiuk spoke in court was to ask about his ability to continue with bottle drives when one of the conditions of his sentence is not to raise money online for charitable reasons.
Olesiuk received three months for the Humboldt fundraiser and 11 months for the other scheme, which must be served consecutively. He’s also been ordered to pay restitution to the victims.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 23, 2020.
Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press