CBC Investigates

'Con man' James Drummond admits to lying about his identity and death in property deals

A man once described by a judge as a “con man” was back in a St. John's courtroom Monday — very much alive — after his alter-ego had signed property deals before claiming to have died.

Crown says Drummond concocted an elaborate story with fabricated characters in 'unusual' case

James Drummond appeared in Supreme Court in St. John's on Nov. 20 for his sentencing hearing, after pleading guilty to two counts of forgery last spring. (Jen White/CBC)

A man once described by a British Columbia Supreme Court judge as a "con man" was back in a St. John's courtroom Monday — very much alive — after his alter-ego had signed property deals before claiming to have died.

James Timothy Drummond, 70, pleaded guilty in April to two counts of forgery. Other counts of fraud were dropped.

At his sentencing hearing, the court learned that in 2014, a man going by the name of "Tim Scott" was attempting to buy two properties in Conception Bay South — a house that cost about $650,000, and land across the street for about $1.3 million where his daughter could keep horses.

Scott told the real estate agent that he had a terminal form of pancreatic cancer, and that he had just months to live.

He signed both purchase agreements as Tim Scott, but didn't provide a photo ID, nor the necessary deposits.

Scott told the agent that he would get the deposit money from trust funds.

Three months went by. There were a series of emails and phone calls about the deposits. Several meetings with lawyers were arranged and later cancelled. The money never came.

Scott told the real estate agent that the delays were due to the transfer of international funds, as well as medical issues, and provided assurances that the money was coming.

Scott dies

Then, in January 2015, the real estate agent received an email from Antony Spencer, someone identifying himself as Scott's business partner. 

The message was grim. Scott had died, but his estate would still proceed with the purchases.

About a month later, the real estate agent saw Scott — whom he had been told was dead — at the Dr. H Bliss Murphy Cancer Centre, and approached him. Scott denied that he knew the real estate agent.

That's when the jig was up.

The real estate agent and the homeowner later went to police and were shown a lineup, where they both identified James Drummond as Tim Scott.

'Unusual' case

On Monday, Justice Donald Burrage, Crown attorney Dana Sullivan, and defence lawyer Tammy Drover all agreed that the case is unusual.

Sullivan asked for a sentence of five to six months in prison, which she called a "step up" from his previous fraud conviction in Newfoundland in 2016 — where he was sentenced to three months for writing bad cheques on a rental property.

She also asked for one year of probation, as well as no contact between Drummond and the homeowner, and counselling for Drummond.

Drummond's lawyer, Tammy Drover, is asked for a three-month conditional sentence, where Crown attorney Dana Sullivan is looking for five to six months in prison. (Jen White/CBC)

Sullivan said he created a complex scheme, that involved an elaborate story, with a lot of correspondence and characters that were fabricated.

She said he also has a record for fraud, including a conviction in B.C. for stealing money from the local Boy Scouts' Christmas tree fund.

Meanwhile, Drummond's defence lawyer noted that his B.C. conviction is old — dating back to 2001.

Drover said there was no financial loss to the homeowner or real estate agent, nor was there any gain for Drummond, and that he's remorseful — she said he's not making any excuses for his behaviour.

Drover instead said that the property deals could have been discarded at any time, when the deposits weren't handed over.

She said Drummond is now 70 years old, has prostate cancer, as well as a number of other medical conditions, including severe pain, confusion, anxiety, and depression — and that he's on a long list of medications.

"He's very weak, and getting weaker all the time," she said, noting he spends most of his time at home in bed and he's wait-listed for a long-term care facility.

Drover said incarceration isn't necessary in this case, and that Drummond should get a conditional sentence of three months.

When the judge asked if he had anything to say, Drummond struggled to rise, gripping his cane.

He said there was an intent to purchase the properties, because he has a 100-year-old wealthy father.

Justice Burrage said he needed more time to consider his sentencing decision. The matter will be back in court on Nov. 30.

About the Author

Jen White

CBC News

Jen White is a journalist with CBC News in St. John's.