Thunder Bay

Keith Hobbs didn't want alleged extortion victim's 'blood money,' court hears

Former Thunder Bay mayor Keith Hobbs didn't want money from the person he allegedly extorted, despite living paycheque-to-paycheque and recently paying $35,000 to the Canada Revenue Agency, court heard Wednesday.

Keith and Marisa Hobbs, Mary Voss allegedly tried to extort victim to buy Voss a home

The extortion trial for former Thunder Bay mayor Keith Hobbs continued on Wednesday. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

Former Thunder Bay mayor Keith Hobbs didn't want money from the person he allegedly extorted, despite living paycheque-to-paycheque and recently paying $35,000 to the Canada Revenue Agency, court heard Wednesday.

Afternoon proceedings in the extortion trial against Keith Hobbs, his wife Marisa Hobbs, and city resident Mary Voss involved testimony from the OPP officer in charge of the investigation into allegations the trio attempted to extort another person into buying a home for Voss.

Det. ​​Inspt. Martin Graham, lead investigator on the Hobbs case — the case known internally by the OPP as "Project Lunsden" — told court the matter first came to the provincial force's attention through the RCMP.

The RCMP contacted the OPP in January 2017, saying they have a sworn, taped statement from a Craig Loverin, who made extortion allegations involving Keith Hobbs.

Loverin, a friend of the victim, testified earlier in the Hobbs trial.

Graham viewed Loverin's statement, then contacted the Crown's office to inquire about how the statement may connect to other criminal charges against the alleged extortion victim. Graham then made an unannounced visit to the victim at the Thunder Bay District Jail to talk about the extortion allegations.

Graham testified the victim named Keith and Marisa Hobbs, Voss, and other individuals, including currently-suspended Thunder Bay lawyer Chris Watkins.

And while Graham said that at the end of January, his focus was on the breach of trust and obstruction of justice case against former Thunder Bay police chief J.P. Levesque — Levesque would be acquitted of all charges after a trial in January 2018 — Graham did get a statement from the victim.

The statement took two days, and while Graham testified he believed, at the time, the extortion allegations were true, pressing charges wasn't a reasonable option at that point.

Graham would receive the USB sticks in February 2017, but he didn't view them at the time. Graham did, however, get warrants to examine the phones of Keith and Marisa Hobbs, Voss, and Levesque as a first step in the extortion investigation.

A "cautioned" statement was also gathered from Keith Hobbs, Graham testified, and video of the statement was shown in court.

In the video, Hobbs refers to the victim as "vile" and an "idiot." Court also hears that Thunder Bay police Const. Jeff Elvish told Hobbs that the victim said "the mayor's behind this" and "tomorrow, the mayor's going to wish he was never born" after the victim was released from custody.

In the videotaped statement, Hobbs also says he knows Loverin brought the extortion allegations to police.

Hobbs also says he and Marisa Hobbs were seeking legal advice at the victim's home the night they were captured in a video that was later shared online. On another occasion, the victim also said inappropriate things to Marisa Hobbs, Keith Hobbs states in the video; Keith Hobbs said he was "getting hot under the collar," and wanted to punch the victim.

Keith Hobbs says the victim offered him money, including a $300,000 loan, but Keith Hobbs didn't accept it. In the video, Keith Hobbs says he was living paycheque-to-paycheque at the time, recently paying $10,000 to his ex-wife, and $35,000 to the Canada Revenue Agency.

Still, Keith Hobbs said he never asked the victim for any financial assistance, and he didn't want the victim's "blood money."

In the video, Keith Hobbs also tells Graham he gave Loverin the USB sticks to show the victim's character, and that the victim already had a real estate deal in place with Voss before Keith Hobbs got involved; he didn't know the value of the deal, however.

Keith Hobbs is also very frustrated in the video, saying numerous times he's done with it. At one point Keith Hobbs tells Graham "you're as incompetent" as the Thunder Bay police, and "you've gotta get your act together."

Keith Hobbs acknowledges he didn't show good judgment, but denies any extortion took place. His city-issued cell phone is seized during the interview with Graham, who says the OPP will buy him another one.

On Wednesday morning, Thunder Bay real estate agent Nadine Friday testified Voss and Marisa Hobbs viewed a home she owned on Gemstone Drive.

Marisa Hobbs did most of the talking during the viewing, but Friday testified it was clear the house, if purchased, would be for Voss.

Friday said Marisa Hobbs told her Voss was getting out of a turbulent relationship, and they were making sure she'd get the best out of a bad situation.

The house itself was initially listed at $429,000, but would later drop to $419,000; Friday told court Voss expressed disappointment at the lack of granite countertops.

It eventually sold in 2017, but not to anyone involved in the extortion trial. Friday testified during cross-examination by defence counsel George Joseph that neither Marisa Hobbs nor Voss said they intended to buy the house during the viewing.

No offer was ever made, and Friday recalls hearing about the arrest of the alleged extortion victim a few days after the viewing.

The Gemstone Drive home wasn't the only one being considered, however, court heard.

Shirley Davis, a friend of Voss, testified Voss had also expressed verbal interest in purchasing Davis's home for $250,000. The two had negotiated the price, as Davis originally wanted $260,000 for the property. The victim visited the home with Voss, and they told her it was a good deal, and discussed purchasing the home privately instead of going through a realtor.

Davis also testified that Voss told her the victim treated Voss "rough" at times.

Court also heard from a friend of Heli Kijanen, Elsie Hutsel, who described an encounter she had with the victim while picking up Kijanen for a concert. She said the victim, whom she had never met before, was sobbing, uncontrollably while eating a Teen Burger that Hutsel had picked up at the request of Kijanen.

Friday said the victim said "they are trying to take my fortune," referring to Voss and the Hobbs', and noted there was also some sort of arrangement where they would have to purchase a home.

All three women took less than two hours to examine and cross-examine.