Plea deal halts extortion trial

A Lower Mainland man must pay a $10,000 fine and more than $60,000 in restitution after an extortion trial was aborted when a plea agreement was reached this week.

A Lower Mainland man must pay a $10,000 fine and more than $60,000 in restitution after an extortion trial was aborted when a plea agreement was reached this week.

The jury had already been selected for Christian Donald Tolentino’s trial on four counts of extortion and one count of uttering threats when he pleaded guilty Tuesday to a new charge of possession of money—$62,500—obtained by crime. The extortion and threats charges were stayed.

According to a statement of facts presented to Justice Peter Rogers Tuesday afternoon, the events that led to the 2008 crime began a number of years ago when a couple lost money after investing with a man who later went bankrupt.

The man, who cannot be identified because of a court order, had business dealings with a relative of the investors, and the relative repeatedly sought to have his family members repaid.

The court heard that the complainant relayed that paying the couple would be “illegal” because of the bankruptcy.

The relative of the investors later spoke about the issue with a client, who happened to be Tolentino, and Tolentino later contacted the complainant in Kelowna and said he was going to collect on the debt.

Tolentino met twice with the complainant in the Kelowna area, receiving $20,000 on the first visit and $42,000 on a visit two days later. He was to collect another $62,500 a month later, but the complainant went to police and Tolentino was intercepted by police as he was headed to Kelowna.

“He didn’t intend to personally threaten (the complainant),” said defence lawyer Brian Jackson of his client. “He didn’t intend to get involved in any criminal activity.”

“It appears to have been an offence motivated not by any over evil intent but rather…as a wish to get ahead in business,” noted Justice Rogers.

He also highlighted that this is a first offence for the 39-year-old businessman and that it appears to be “out of character.”

He said he was “just satisfied” that Tolentino did not need to be incarcerated and agreed to the joint submission presented by Crown and defence.

Tolentino will be on probation for three years, during which time he may not be in the Kelowna/Lake Country area or have contact with the complainant and a number of other individuals.

He must pay $62,500 restitution to the victim within six months, and has 10 months to pay $10,000, the court also ordered.

 

Kelowna Capital News