Hundreds of thousands of dollars was set to change hands with a number of large-purchase agreements which in the end, proved too good to be true.
On the afternoon of Feb. 25, Taber Police Service was called to a suspicious transaction at the Alberta vehicle licensing office in Taber.
Police were advised a man had paid for the licensing of several commercial vehicles under a company name, and the agent had quickly determined there was something wrong with the cheque.
“The thickness of the paper the check was printed on,” was the tip for licensing officials, according to Insp. Graham Abela of the Taber Police Service, who added it was thinner than usual.
The bank confirmed the cheque appeared to be a forgery and the police were called. On arrival, Taber police encountered the suspect in the area and a Taber man was taken into custody.
The investigation has revealed that, over a period of months, a scheme was developed by a Taber man who fraudulently had been attending commercial businesses in the Taber and Lethbridge area, convincing salesmen he was being funded by a wealthy Saskatchewan businessman to set up a commercial business in Taber.
According to Abela, the man stated to someone the industry he was going to work in was potash.
As a result, several large equipment/trucking dealers had signed sales agreements for the purchase of over $800,000 worth of large trucks, trailers, etc.
“We have at least six dealerships but there may be more,” said Abela.“We aren’t sure yet what he was going to do with the property. We can only surmise, as he isn’t talking.”
The man was apprehended after he had obtained the licence plates for the equipment. The investigation has revealed he was on the way to the businesses on the Tuesday afternoon to take possession of the equipment and trucks.
“The licence plates would have been all he needed to finalize the purchases, assuming the cheques he produced were accepted as genuine,” said Abela, as to how close the man was to pulling off the scheme.
On arrest, the suspect was found in possession of several fake and forged cheques, made out to the companies he was about to defraud, as well as several bills of sale for the equipment.
Taber police have charged 52-year-old Raymond Mehler of Taber with one count of making a false document, four counts of false pretenses, two counts of uttering a forged document, and two counts of fraud.
Mehler was on parole at the time of the alleged offences and his parole has been revoked, according to police. He appeared in Lethbridge provincial court Thursday by closed-circuit TV from the Lethbridge Correctional Centre, and his case was adjourned to March 11 in Taber for a possible bail hearing.
The investigation continues by members of the Taber Police Service and the Lethbridge Regional Police Service, and more charges are pending, according to Taber police.
Abela said police in Taber have never dealt with anything to this extent before, as he added the dealerships who were nearly victimized had likely never been targeted in this manner before.
“People who commit frauds perpetuate lies. Some of these lies are very believable, especially when forged documents are used.”