'Pierre Poutine' robocalls plot detailed in new documents

More puzzle pieces are falling into place in the mystery of 'Pierre Poutine,' the pseudonym of the person behind misleading election robocalls in Guelph, Ont.

Mystery IP address resolved as Rogers corrects information provided to investigators

Robocalls documents point to 'Pierre Poutine'

9 years ago
Duration 3:33
Internet provider gave wrong info about IP address

More details are emerging in the mystery of "Pierre Poutine," a pseudonym of the person behind misleading election robocalls in Guelph, Ont.

Michael Sona, a 24-year-old former Conservative Party staffer, is the only person charged with masterminding an automated phone call that went to thousands of non-Conservative supporters in Guelph, Ont., on election day in 2011, sending voters to the wrong polling station.

New court documents in the Elections Canada investigation into the calls were made public late Monday, but are subject to a strict publication ban. The judge who issued the ban, Célynne Dorval, went so far as to order anyone who wants access to the documents to acknowledge in writing that the sealing order exists, and to refuse to provide photocopies of the publicly available documents, requiring the records to be viewed at the courthouse.

The ban runs until Sona's trial is complete. The trial's start date hasn't yet been scheduled.

The new information strengthens the links between an automated phone calls account that ordered the misleading robocalls and an IP address belonging to the Conservative campaign in Guelph.

The documents, including a 42-page affidavit signed by Elections Canada investigator Al Mathews, resolve a small mystery about why a seemingly unconnected IP address was used to order up the automated robocalls: the internet provider gave the wrong information to Mathews.

Mathews had traced the misleading calls in Guelph to an account with RackNine, a company that provides clients the ability to make automated phone calls to thousands of people at once. The account, under the pseudonym "Pierre Jones," accessed RackNine using a specific IP address, a unique identifier associated with internet service accounts.

"Pierre Poutine" and "Pierre Jones" are the two pseudonyms used to set up the accounts used to carry out the alleged voter fraud.

IP address belonged to Conservative office

In March, 2012, Rogers Communications gave Mathews the name of a customer who Mathews said seemed to be unconnected to the Conservative campaign in Guelph. Conservative Party officials have told Mathews that the list of call recipients matches their own list of Guelph residents who don't support the party. But the IP address seemed to be a dead end.

In fact, the new records show, Rogers gave Mathews the name of the customer who currently uses that IP address. The company has since corrected itself, Mathews wrote in the documents filed in court.

"The true subscriber for [the IP address] during the timeframe requested was 'The Marty Burke Campaign,'" Mathews said.

The court had given Mathews a production order for the IP address information on March 20, 2012, and Rogers complied the next day.

Mathews went back to the customer named by Rogers and got a copy of a May 2, 2011 email to prove, using data from the email's header, that the IP address was different. He passed it on to Rogers and asked the company to take another look.

A spokeswoman for Rogers says Elections Canada contacted the company again on Aug. 10, 2012, and asked them to re-examine the information originally provided.

"We then reviewed the additional information provided by Elections Canada and determined that we had inadvertently provided incorrect information. This was a highly unusual and rare error. On Aug. 22, 2012 we provided Elections Canada with the correct information responsive to their court order," Jennifer Kett said in an email to CBC News. 

"We make every effort to respond to court orders thoroughly and without delay." 

Timeline details Pierre Poutine's plan

Sona was the director of communications for Conservative candidate Marty Burke in Guelph for the May 2, 2011 election campaign. He went on to work for Conservative MP Eve Adams.

Sona says he had nothing to do with the misleading calls.

In the court documents, Mathews sets out some of the timeline for all the purchases that allowed the shadowy robocaller to hide his or her tracks. CBC News has compiled this timeline based on information contained in the court documents released late Monday and on previous affidavits filed by Mathews. All times ET.

April 30, 2011 5:30 p.m. 

Andrew Prescott, the campaign staffer who dealt with RackNine for voice broadcasts, or robocalls, replies to an email by Ken Morgan, the campaign manager, and Sona. Morgan and Sona had asked Prescott to provide the contact information for RackNine. RackNine President Matt Meier only provides his direct line to current clients.

6:49 p.m.

A $75 pre-paid Visa card is purchased at the Shoppers Drug Mart on Scottsdale Drive in Guelph.

7:04 p.m.

A pre-paid cell phone, or burner phone, is bought at Future Shop on Stone Road West in Guelph for $45.30. The buyer pays cash and activates the phone under the name "Pierre Poutine," using the same gmail address that later communicates with Meier. Mathews says in the affidavit that he has driven between the Shoppers and the Future Shop, and they are 1.3 kilometres apart, nearly in a straight line.

7:19 p.m.

The pierres1630@gmail.com account is created. Mathews says in his affidavit that Google has confirmed the email account was created at the same IP address used by the Burke Conservative campaign.

8:48 p.m.

The cell phone is activated through a cell tower at 530 York Road in Guelph. At 1.6 kilometres away from the Burke Conservative campaign office, it is the closest tower to the campaign headquarters.

9:07 p.m. 

Someone using the name Pierre Jones calls Meier and sets up a RackNine account.

May 1, 2011

Three more pre-paid credit cards are bought at a different Shoppers Drug Mart. One is a Mastercard brand pre-paid card for $200, one is a Visa for $150, and the third is a Visa for $35.

9:19 p.m.

"Pierre Jones" logs onto RackNine via a server that hides IP addresses.

9:20 p.m. 

"Pierre Jones" accesses RackNine again, this time from the IP address used by the Burke Conservative campaign.

May 2, 2011 (Election Day), 4:12 a.m.

"Pierre Jones" logs into RackNine from the IP address assigned to the Burke Conservative campaign.

4:15 a.m.

The account assigned to Prescott, the only Burke campaign staffer who dealt with RackNine, logs in from the Conservative campaign's IP address. Every time Prescott's account logged into RackNine from the Guelph area (Prescott also logged in from other towns), it was through the Burke campaign IP address.

10:00 a.m.

Misleading calls falsely claiming to be on behalf of Elections Canada direct thousands of Guelph voters to the wrong polling station. It's against the law to interfere with a citizen's right to cast a ballot.

4:54 p.m.

"Pierre Jones's" account accesses RackNine but the access is stored in internal RackNine logs as Prescott's user number. The session is left logged in as Prescott's user ID.


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