Alberta handyman gets jail time for fraud
Ron Westergreen sentenced after being found guilty of scamming his own relatives
Ron Westergreen has a history of not finishing what he starts but it's unlikely he'll get out of serving his jail sentence.
A judge in Wetaskiwin has given him six months in jail and 18 months' probation on five counts of fraud under $5,000.
The CBC has done stories on Westergreen in the past and heard from many of his alleged victims throughout central Alberta who say the handyman accepts money for jobs he doesn't complete.
This case centred on one couple, Steven and Bonnie McMillen. Bonnie McMillen describes Westergreen as a step brother-in-law.
Despite the close connection, it didn't stop him from ripping them off.
Bonnie McMillen says she knew he had been in trouble in the past but thought she and her husband were safe.
"We're family, you don't do that to family right? Wrong! You do if your name is Ron Westergreen," she said.
McMillen says she and her husband were angry when they realized they had also become victims.
"He put $10,000 on our VISA when we got that VISA bill and we opened it up and there's an extra $10,000 on it," she said. "We were livid."
The judge has also ordered Westergreen to pay the McMillens more than $8,000 in restitution.
Bonnie McMillen doubts they'll ever see that money but says the jail sentence is more important.
"Just to teach him a lesson," she said.
"You know he needs to quit doing this to people and I think he is a liability being out on the street. He continues to do this...he needs to be stopped."
During sentencing arguments, the court heard that Westergreen has a long history of ripping people off dating back many years, something the judge took into account in delivering his sentence.
Wetaskiwin chief Crown prosecutor Trent Wilson admits cases like this are usually difficult to prove but the McMillens made it easier by keeping every piece of paper.
"They were very diligent when it came to that but these cases are very difficult to prosecute because you have to prove an intent to defraud," he said. "And often when people are in these situations with a small-time contractor, there isn't a lot of paperwork."
Wilson says the Crown is satisfied with the sentence and feels that it is appropriate.
"We're guardedly optimistic that this sentence is going to deter him and that he's going to think twice about victimizing innocent members of the public," Wilson said
Bonnie McMillen hopes Wilson is right but she doesn't have much faith.
"How does that story go? A leopard can't change its spots?"
During the trial, the court heard that Westergreen was still running a contracting business. He was working on a commercial project in Sylvan Lake until he was taken into custody.
McMillen expects the pattern to continue.
"In about a year we'll hear about from someone from Sylvan Lake taking to Ron to court because he'll probably rip them off too, that's my opinion."
The lesson for Albertans, says Wilson, is "buyer beware."
McMillen puts it another way: "Stay away from Ron Westergreen."