Darlene Wheeler gets house arrest for Gander rental scam
Judge calls actions ‘reprehensible’ but says convicted woman is a low risk to reoffend
A woman with a lengthy criminal record has been sentenced to 12 months' house arrest for running a rental scam in Gander three years ago.
Darlene Wheeler took nearly $3,800 in deposit money from six women looking for an apartment in the town.
None of them ever stayed in the accommodations they paid to rent.
There's little question that your conduct in bilking these trusting young women of moneys they gave to you in good faith is reprehensible.- Judge Lori Marshall
Wheeler kept the cash.
"There's little question that your conduct in bilking these trusting young women of moneys they gave to you in good faith is reprehensible," Judge Lori Marshall said in her sentencing decision at provincial court in St. John's on Tuesday morning.
Marshall called it a "horrible scheme" carried out through a "string of lies," and added that Wheeler "took advantage of these young vulnerable women."
- From 2014 | CBC INVESTIGATES: Apartment hunters targeted by Gander rental scam
- Darlene Wheeler convicted of fraud in Gander rental scam
But the judge noted that Wheeler hasn't been in trouble with the law since being charged three years ago, and said the risk of her reoffending is low.
"Because there hasn't been anything recent, and because of the fact that there is a dated record, at this particular point in time, that risk to the community of you reoffending if you are released is on the lower end of the scale," Marshall said in her sentencing decision.
'Very short leash,' judge says
Wheeler's record for past fraud-related convictions dates back to 1993 and runs 15 pages.
But her last conviction prior to these ones was a decade ago, in 2007.
The judge stressed to Wheeler that she is now on a "very short leash … it's up to you whether you hang yourself."
She told Wheeler: "I hope that you learned your lesson."
"Oh I did," Wheeler replied.
In addition to her conditional sentence of 12 months' house arrest, Wheeler will serve 12 months of probation and must pay restitution to her victims.
The Crown had sought jail time — five to six months for the rental scam, plus another couple of months for passing bad cheques in 2010.