The former owner of a tour company in Bathurst has pleaded guilty to 13 fraud-related charges involving about 375 complainants and totalling an estimated $300,000.
Jeanne Marie Doucet pleaded guilty in provincial court on Monday to all of the charges against her, including fraud over $5,000, fraud under $5,000, writing false cheques and false pretenses.
Some of the charges date back to 2007.
More than 450 people had complained to police that they had paid a deposit on discount tours with Jeannine Tours, but never got their trip or their deposit back.
Police investigated and the charges relate to about 375 people, defence lawyer Jean-Guy Henry told reporters after the proceedings.
Doucet is remorseful, he said.
She was originally facing six charges, but the additional counts were laid on Monday — her first court appearance.
Dozens of her former clients attended the proceedings. Ivan Young was among them.
"This is our third time here and this is her first time appearance. So I was quite happy to see her," said Young.
He was set to go to Nashville last year when he heard the business had folded, leaving customers like him high and dry, he said.
Flood of victim impact statements expected
Melvin Young says Doucet owes him $2,200. He says he travelled with her company several times and the treatment he received raised some red flags.
"They weren't really organized there … she kept changing her mind all the time," said Young.
"We were supposed to go one place, and next thing we know, you end up in another place, and everything was made up as we go along."
Doucet is scheduled to return to court on Oct. 30 at 10 a.m. for a sentencing hearing. Victim impact statements will be submitted to Judge Camille Dumas for consideration.
The judge is expecting so many victim impact statements, he has enlisted the help of Bathurst Police Force Deputy Chief Andre Comeau to sort through them.
"Normally, it's handled by victim services, which is a department from the province, and they take care of the victim impact statements. In this case, because there are so many victims, we'll be handling the statements," said Comeau.
In February, 2013, a group of Girl Guides went public after the tour company closed two weeks before their planned trip to Disney World and said they wouldn't be refunded their $10,575.
People in the community then raised $11,000 to allow the Girl Guides to make the trip.
At the time, the Better Business Bureau had received 11 complaints about the company.