Thunder Bay·Updated

OPP seized computer from office of then-mayor Keith Hobbs during extortion investigation

The OPP seized the computer from the City Hall office of Keith Hobbs during its investigation into extortion allegations against the former Thunder Bay mayor, court heard Monday.

Keith Hobbs, Marisa Hobbs, and Mary Voss on trial in Thunder Bay on extortion charges

The extortion trial against former Thunder Bay mayor Keith Hobbs, his wife Marisa, and city resident Mary Voss continued on Monday. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

The OPP seized the computer from the City Hall office of Keith Hobbs during its investigation into extortion allegations against the former Thunder Bay mayor, court heard Monday.

Keith Hobbs, who served two terms as Thunder Bay mayor, his wife Marisa Hobbs, and city resident Mary Voss are currently on trial, facing one charge each of extortion over their alleged attempts to force another person to buy a house for Voss.

Monday marked the 10th day of the trial, and opened with testimony by OPP Det. Inspt. Martin Graham, who headed up the extortion investigation.

The computer seizure happened on April 11, 2017, when OPP executed a search warrant at the mayor's office, he told court.

OPP also searched the city's computer network at the same time. Two relevant documents were found on Hobbs' desktop computer: one is a "separation settlement" between Voss and the alleged victim, the other a synopsis of a lawsuit filed by Marisa Hobbs against CIBC.

Graham testified he later got a phone call from Marisa Hobbs, who was upset as someone had told her the OPP was also looking into allegations of money laundering and embezzlement. Graham said that isn't true.

Marisa Hobbs re-iterated they had nothing to hide, court heard, and that they did nothing wrong. Graham responded that OPP have a number of messages that made their intentions clear: the only logical conclusion, he said, is that Keith and Marisa Hobbs were trying to extort the alleged victim.

Marisa Hobbs said Graham was wrong, and followed-up the phone call with a number of e-mails, many of which were forwards of messages initially sent by now-suspended Thunder Bay lawyer Chris Watkins.

Graham also tells court he got a second call from Marisa Hobbs later that day, but he let the call go to voice mail.

The next day, Graham got another call from Marisa Hobbs, who apologized for the barrage of messages. She tells him Keith Hobbs has done up a handwritten statement; Graham received the statement on April 24.

Court then saw another video, this one of an interview of Marisa Hobbs by Graham. It took place on April 24, and again Marisa Hobbs declined to have a lawyer present, saying she and Keith Hobbs have nothing to hide.

During the interview, Graham said he's concerned that Keith and Marisa Hobbs deleted numerous text messages around December 21, 2016.

"But you guys can get those," she replied. And while Graham replied OPP couldn't do that, investigators did manage to retrieve a number of deleted texts, which have been submitted as evidence.

In the video, Graham proceeds to read the statement aloud, with Marisa Hobbs still present.

In the statement, Keith Hobbs stated he tried to get Voss to go to the police about alleged victim, who was described as being arrogant and abusive with a "guilty mind."

The statement also asserts an offer by the victim to purchase a house for Voss was unsolicited, and that Keith Hobbs offered to take a polygraph test, but both OPP and Thunder Bay police declined the offer.

After reading the statement, Graham and Marisa Hobbs exchange words.

"In your eyes you don't believe you extorted" the victim," Graham said.

"I know what it looks like to you," Marisa Hobbs replied. She goes on to accuse Graham of trying to ruin her reputation, along with that of Keith Hobbs, and walks out of the interview.

Part of a second video interview between Graham and Voss was then shown in court; it's just under 4 1/2 hours long in total.

It opens with Graham cautioning Voss, who doesn't have a lawyer present, that she's under investigation and any statements she makes could be used against her.

Graham asks Voss if there was a deal in place that would have seen Voss borrow money against any home the alleged victim bought her, and in turn lend that money to Keith and Marisa Hobbs. Voss replies that she doesn't remember a deal like that being made.

The video continued with Graham telling Voss she was being used by Marisa Hobbs.

"Besides really pretending to be a friend, just like [Marisa Hobbs] did with other people, she used you," Graham said to Voss. "She doesn't have your back."

And then, later on in the video: "Do you not see how Marisa has used you?"

"I guess so," Voss replied.

Why Voss gave videos showing the alleged victim behaving erratically to Keith Hobbs was also questioned by Graham.

According to the text records, Graham said, the night Keith Hobbs gave the videos, contained on USB sticks, to Craig Loverin, she received a message from Marisa Voss saying "you won."

Loverin is a friend of the victim's, and Keith Hobbs said in a previous interview with Graham he gave the videos to Loverin and told him to give them to the victim, so the victim would know how much trouble they're in.

In the interview shown in court on Monday, Voss tells Graham she "couldn't take it anymore," and gave Keith Hobbs the videos so he could figure out what to do with them.

But Graham said the action made Voss "look bad," like an extortionist.

Voss told Graham she didn't negotiate with the victim for a house, and the victim's purchase of a house had nothing to do with her going to the police to report criminal allegations against the victim.

The idea of the victim purchasing her a house was brought up much earlier, Voss said.

Voss repeatedly had trouble remembering details, and later said she was "struggling" to explain some things that had occurred.

For example, Graham brought up a 46-minute phone call between Voss and Marisa Hobbs that phone records show took place on the same day Voss and the victim were going to sign real estate papers. Voss said instead of signing papers, the two got into a physical altercation.

Voss said the phone call was only that long because she forgot to hang up after leaving Marisa Hobbs a message.

The subject of the videos showing the victim is then brought up again, with Voss telling Graham she showed the videos to Keith and Marisa Hobbs.

"[The victim] has to buy you a house," Voss said Marisa Hobbs told her after watching them. "You deserve better."

"You're trying to get the best deal you could," Graham said.

"Marisa is somebody who won't take no for an answer," Voss tells Graham in the interview.

Voss said she was looking at homes valued at about $250,000, but Marisa Hobbs said those homes were ugly, and too old.

"I should have put my foot down harder," Voss said.

Graham then told Voss that Marisa Hobbs only does something for someone "when it's better for her," and that she "only cares about money and image."

Voss also tells Graham it was Marisa Hobbs who told her to explain to police that her and Keith Hobbs were only dealing with the victim for advice, and nothing else.

Toward the end of the video, Voss told Graham she only wanted a house instead of cash, as asking for cash from the victim would be extortion. Graham was then seen in the video reading Voss the definition of extortion as contained in the Criminal Code, and said it's what Voss, Keith Hobbs and Marisa Hobbs had done.

The proceedings will continue Tuesday morning.