Some victims of an alleged large-scale fraud on Vancouver Island are speaking out in frustration with the RCMP because its investigation has dragged on for more than two years and no charges have been laid.
"We're aware of the fact that we're not going to get any money out of it, but now we think we're not going to get any justice either," said Don Myatt of Victoria.
"As far as the RCMP are concerned, I have no confidence," said his wife, Margaret. "I used to have a lot of respect for police officers. Now I don't have one ounce of respect for them because they're dragging their feet."
The Myatts claim they lost $30,000 after signing a trailer over to Southwest RV and Sport Ltd. in Cobble Hill, B.C., on consignment. They allege owner Kersti Clark sold the trailer and didn't give them the proceeds.
They are among 70 customers who made similar complaints to the RCMP in 2008. At the time, police estimated people had lost nearly a million dollars.
"Every time we ask the RCMP, 'What is the status of the investigation?', it's gone nowhere," said Don Myatt.
In 2008, the B.C. Motor Vehicle Sales Authority found enough evidence of wrongdoing to suspend Clark's dealer licence and freeze her business assets. The authority has since paid $315,000 from its consumer compensation fund to 37 customers.
Licensing probe conclusive
"I am satisfied … that Kersti Clark knowingly sold vehicles on consignment when not legally authorized to do so," the adjudicator concluded in 2008. "I am satisfied … Clark failed to remit money owed to consumers."
"Everyone can figure it out — except the RCMP," said Myatt.
The Myatts were not among those compensated, because of a technicality. Their trailer was considered a manufactured home, not a vehicle.
Investigators with the authority concluded that Clark left B.C. in 2008 for Mexico.
Clark has a criminal record in Arizona — for theft — and has been sued in California in cases involving cars, mortgages and real estate. Several lawsuits against her have also been filed in B.C. courts.
"I'm just disgusted. I'm absolutely disgusted," said Margaret Myatt.
Her husband said the RCMP initially told him the criminal investigation would likely be handed over to its commercial crimes section because it was too big for the detachment in Duncan, on Vancouver Island, to handle.
However, emails from Duncan RCMP to Don Myatt this fall made it clear that has not happened.
"Commercial Crime did not take over the file.… I don't blame you for being upset and I apologize for any misinformation that you feel may have occurred," wrote Const. Russ Warren in November.
Delays at detachment
He also indicated he had written a letter to other officials on the status of the case, but it had gone no further than that.
"I am still waiting to hear back," said Warren.
Cpl. Darren Lagan confirmed to CBC News the investigation remains at the Duncan detachment and it is not clear when — or if — charges will be laid.
"This sort of file can take — and has so far taken — hundreds of hours. And it will take hundreds, if not thousands, of hours more," said Lagan. "I can't say today that she [Clark] will ever face charges.
"Once you start to meet the standard of evidence the courts require to lay criminal charges, it becomes much more complex. It takes a much greater amount of time for our investigators."
"Yeah, it's complicated," Don Myatt responded. "That's another reason why Duncan should have never had it to begin with."
Lagan said investigators in the small detachment can only work on the file periodically, when they are not responding to other crimes.
"The investigators in Duncan responsible for this file are in the general investigations section," Lagan said. "Unfortunately, we have to take the resources we have at our disposal and use them to ensure public safety first."
Alleged fraudster gone
Lagan confirmed the file won't be transferred to commercial crime investigators, because they are too busy with bigger cases. He said the RCMP believes Clark may still be in Mexico, although he admitted no one has been tracking her whereabouts.
Meantime, the list of people affected is growing. Ken McAuley, 82, is being sued in Edmonton by one of the original victims because he unwittingly purchased their RV from Clark at Southwest.
"I really didn't do anything wrong. That's what bugs me," said McAuley. "I bought from a reputable dealer and we were always taught if you bought from a reputable dealer, you have no problem.
"She’s down there [Mexico] spending my money — and everyone else’s money. There are 75 or 80 people involved in this who have lost money. But I don’t think anything will ever come of it."
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Says Don Myatt: "I want justice. "Why should she [Clark] be able to get away with this?
"Why can she take somebody’s life and turn it upside-down the way she has and walk away? It just doesn’t seem right to me."
Former RCMP watchdog Paul Kennedy said he heard similar sentiments often before his contract as the head of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP was terminated last year.
"I have received complaints in the past with reference to the seemingly tardiness and/or lack of uptake by the RCMP of commercial crime investigations," said Kennedy.
"But for the isolated case that comes before the public eye, it generally goes uninvestigated," he said.
"I believe that the RCMP should get out of most, if not all, of its municipal and provincial contract work. It should return to its primary focus, which is federal policing," Kennedy added.
"Until these structural changes occur, citizens will continue to be underwhelmed by the police response to these types of alleged crimes."