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Yellowknife homeless men targeted in fake cheque scheme

Two men in Yellowknife have been convicted for cashing fake cheques worth thousands of dollars, but not everybody thinks they should be held criminally responsible.

Two men in Yellowknife have been convicted for cashing fake cheques worth thousands of dollars, but not everybody thinks they should be held criminally responsible.

Forty-four-year-old Michael Mantla has schizophrenia.

He was homeless and poor in October when two men asked him to cash fake cheques worth more than $10,000.

RCMP have not identified the two men, who kept most of the cash.  

On April 17, Mantla was convicted of fraud for using the fake cheques at Money Mart and CIBC. He was sentenced to two years probation and ordered to pay back roughly $1,500.

Lydia Bardak is executive director of the John Howard Society in Yellowknife.

She says Mantla was a target, and shouldn't be prosecuted as a criminal.  

“Somebody who's living in poverty, homeless, it could be somebody who has addictions or substance abuse issues,” she says. “The prospect of making an easy $50? Who wouldn't say yes to that?”

Bardak says the criminal sentence will do more harm than good.

“We're talking about homeless people or unemployed individuals having to pay large restitution orders,” she says. “They cannot get a clean criminal record check now with their conviction and they won't be able to get a record suspension while they still have an outstanding restitution order.”

Mark Feldthusen was the Crown prosecutor in Mantla's case.

“The personal circumstances and the role of the offender were considered at the sentencing hearing. That being said, the fact that others were involved does not negate one's criminal liability,” Feldthusen says.

The second homeless man was convicted earlier this month.

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