(Kamloops This Week)

Kamloops fraudster fooled — and avoids jail time

Valuable gold coins Paul Pearson was alleged to have pilfered from a wealthy Alberta couple turned out to worthless pieces of brass

  • Sep. 3, 2020 2:00 p.m.

– Tim Petruk / Kamloops This Week

A notorious Kamloops fraudster has avoided jail after valuable gold coins he was alleged to have pilfered from a wealthy Alberta couple turned out to worthless.

Paul Pearson pleaded guilty in Kamloops provincial court on Thursday to one count of mischief stemming from an incident in the Calgary area in early 2019. He had originally been facing a charge of theft over $5,000.

Court heard Pearson, 68, was contacted by a couple in Cochrane, Alta., in the fall of 2018.

“They responded to an advertisement they saw in the newspaper, which offered to purchase gold and silver items,” Crown prosecutor Oliver Potestio said. “In response to this advertisement, they were put in touch with Mr. Pearson.”

Paul Pearson pictured in 2015. (Kamloops This Week)

Court heard Pearson told the couple he had 40 years of experience in trading in gold and silver. He travelled to Alberta to meet with them on Feb. 23, 2019.

Potestio said the couple allowed Pearson to peruse dozens of bags of apparent American Gold Eagle bullion coins with “little supervision.” Pearson agreed to purchase one bag of 100 coins for $5,000, which he paid in cash.

After Pearson left, the couple realized they were missing 15 additional bags of coins. The next day, Pearson went to the Cochrane RCMP detachment and turned over a number of bags of coins, court heard, telling police he thought he received more than what he purchased.

The couple confirmed the coins belonged to them. The investigation progressed and Pearson was charged in June 2019.

Potestio said 15 of the coins were later tested and found to be counterfeit.

“They turned out to be brass coins,” he said. “They had no monetary value.”

Pearson has a lengthy criminal history dating back to 1969, including multiple convictions for fraud. His most recent convictions before Thursday were in 2010.

Defence lawyer Jeremy Jensen painted a picture of a hustler who was beaten at his own game.

“The facts here are unusual in the sense that Mr. Pearson was either dealing with an incredibly naive, wealthy couple with a treasure chest of gold, or —” Jensen said, before being cut off by Kamloops provincial court Judge Stella Frame.

“Or a scammer got scammed,” the judge posited.

“Or exactly that,” Jensen replied. “Mr. Pearson found himself in a position where an experienced trader got hustled.”

Frame placed Pearson on a nine-month probation term with conditions prohibiting him from contacting the Cochrane couple. He also paid $350 to Cochrane RCMP’s victim services department as part of the plea deal.

Frame told Pearson he would have been looking at jail time if convicted on the theft over $5,000 charge.

“Hopefully, being on the receiving end this time of this type of conduct is going to bring home to you how painful it is to do this to other people,” she said.

In 2015, Pearson was behind the failed launch of Kamloops Auto Auctions, which he attempted to set up in the former Strauss Herbs building on Fortune Drive in North Kamloops. At the time, Pearson gave a false name to KTW and lied about his involvement with the business, before later admitting his involvement. Before it opened, Kamloops Auto Auctions found itself in trouble with the City of Kamloops over licensing and under investigation by the Vehicle Sales Authority of B.C.

The business shuttered before its first auction.

In 2013, Pearson was the subject of a warning from the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs regarding a talent contest he launched involving Indigenous youth.

In 2010, Pearson was sentenced to 20 months of house arrest and ordered to pay $158,000 in restitution after scamming booth exhibitors at phoney trade shows in Red Deer and Calgary. Those offences took place between 2007 and 2009 when Pearson began advertising trade shows online. He collected money from 18 victims.

Pearson declared bankruptcy in 2005. Three years before that, he was convicted and fined under the Trade Practices Act for deceiving customers of his log home company.

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