November 2, 2012
Fraudster used posters of sick and dying children he found online
By Tracy McLaughlin, QMI Agency
BARRIE, Ont. - Calling him "vile and despicable," a judge slammed Adam Gour with a hefty fine and a jail sentence for preying on families of sick and dying children across Ontario to line his own pockets.
Gour, of North Bay, Ont., was found guilty fraud, and he was sentenced Friday to 15 months in jail. He was also fined $280,000 under the Proceeds of Crime Act and warned to pay it within three years or get three years in jail.
During the trial, court heard how Gour lurked on the Internet to find families with a sick or dying child, then sent his team of cronies to area towns to set up cash boxes in grocery stores and department stores using the child's photo as a poster. His team would get free hotel accommodations as they travelled all over the province, from North Bay to Timmins, Sudbury, Ottawa, Bradford and finally Alliston, where Gpur was caught in 2009 - but by then they had already hauled in up to $450,000 of the donating public's money.
It was the family of six-year-old Jaida Cumberland, who died last year of a rare neurological disease, that went to police after learning that fundraisers were using a poster of Jaida.
"I was heartbroken that these shady characters had their hands on Jaida's image and her name on their lips," Jaida's mom, Helen Sykes, said as she clasped a locket with her little daughter's picture. "They took advantage of good, generous people."
Beside her, Jaida's dad, Steve Cumberland, said he applauds the judge's decision.
"It's not about the money he took from us," he said. "It's about ripping off the public and using our dying daughter as a pawn."
A family from North Bay also applauded the judge's decision.
"I'm glad that guy went to jail," said young Ethan Wood, 10, whose photograph was used in one of Gour's campaigns while Ethan was suffering from bleeding brain tumors.
His dad Al and mom Juliet, who is also struggling with breast cancer, testified how the constant trips to Sick Kids hospital in Toronto wore out their finances.
Tens of thousands of dollars were raised on Ethan's behalf -- but the family never saw it.
Crew member Nicole Bessette testified she was instructed by Gour to "lie" and tell people she was a volunteer for "the Ethan Campaign." She said teams worked the cash boxes and often brought in $1,000 a day each.
"You see a real child and you play on their sympathies," Bessette testified. The money came pouring in, she said. In some instances, a blind man and his dog also worked the cash boxes in department stores.
"This offender's fleecing of the unsuspecting public is vile and despicable," said Superior Court Justice John McIsaac in his sentencing. "He used unknowing sick and terminally ill children and their families to line his own pockets."
In court, Gour never admitted any wrongdoing but told the judge he "felt bad" that the families never got their money.
"He feels bad that he got caught," Jaida's dad said. "Hopefully this sends a message out to the public that this is a crime."