(THUNDER BAY, ON) – 38-year-old Elaine Michano was convicted today regarding an incident where she frauded a vulnerable and mentally ill citizen in our city. Michano has extensive ties to long time criminals Barbara Kentner and Crystal Towegishig.
On May 15th, 2019 Elaine Michano entered a small apartment complex and proceeded to a third floor apartment. She spoke to the male tenant of the home upon him answering the door. Michano then identified herself as “Betty” from the Thunder Bay District Social Services Administration Board’s Housing Division. She informed the tenant that he had fallen behind on rent during the past several months and that she was requiring payment. Betty is the actual name of the property manager from housing that was handling that building for DSSAB at the time of the offence and for some time previously.
The tenant produces his banks debit card along with the pin number associated with that to Michano. Upon handing over his debit card to Michano, along with the pin number for it, Michano then told the male that she would be right back and was going to head to the nearest ATM to solve his arrears. She stated that she would head downstairs to the office in order to process his transaction.
Michano then left the apartment complex and headed to the Wal Mart Supercentre located at 777 Memorial Ave where unauthorized transactions totaled $264. At this time she then returned to the apartment complex where she found the victim using a payphone and returned the bank’s debit card to the victim. The incident was captured on surveillance video at Walmart and the lobby of the apartment complex.
38-year-old Elaine Michano appeared in a Thunder Bay Courthouse (A.K.A. “The In and Out Day Spa”) courtroom while handcuffed in the prisoner’s box. The Crown Attorney prosecuting the case was the ever thorough and intelligent Cousineau who was facing veteran criminal defence lawyer David Bruzzese.
Michano starts her court appearance today by pleading guilty to the criminal charge of fraud under $5000. At this point the Crown reads into the court record the agreed statement of facts. Criminal defence lawyer David Bruzzese agrees that the facts of the case are indeed, agree upon
The Crown tells the court that although he does not have a formal victim impact statement, he does have documentation written by the victim that advises the incident has caused him significant financial impact because he is on assistance and already has to be very careful about how he spends his money. The victim had to stay with a friend for a while as this incident drained his financial ability to feed himself for some amount of time. Court hears that the victim is on his pension and is a senior citizen.
The victim is seeking restitution and a no-contact order against the defendant.
Criminal defence lawyer David Bruzzese tells the court that Michano is First Nation member of Pic River First Nation. She hasn’t been raised in Pic River but instead spent a large sum of her youth in foster homes and was a Crown ward through dilico. Due to this, she has spent a lot of her time away from her First Nation community and was instead brought up in Thunder Bay.
Court hears that Michano has five children with a man named Jared Obabigon who is currently deceased. All five of her children are living with her grandparents. Michano, although had a troubled upbringing, managed to obtain her grade 12 education.
Bruzzese says that despite her rather lengthy criminal record there was no young offender background. Michano started her criminal career in her adult years after becoming addicted to opiates. Since being arrested and held in jail, Bruzzese tells the courts that she has been prescribed suboxone which has reduced her urges to abuse substances. She is hopeful that the treatment she has started for her drug addiction will continue into the future and likely reduce her criminal activities.
Because of her lengthy criminal record, she is aware that a jail sentence is unavoidable upon her arrest and conviction.
Defence lawyer points out to the Judge that Michano did return the victim’s bank card and only stole a modest amount. Court does not hear whether or not $264 was all of the money in the victims bank account but in my opinion (Pino Demasi opinion), it likely was all this senior citizen had.
Both the Crown and defence agree and submit to the Judge that they believe Michano should be sentenced to 6 months in jail for this crime. Michano has served 66 real days in jail and a request is put forth to enhance that time to 99 days. This would leave her with a whopping 81 days left to serve in jail, should the Judge decide to accept the joint submission. Further, court hears the recommendation that Michano be on a 12 month probation order that includes all the basic conditions such as reporting as required, attending court as required, etc, as well as:
- Not to attend the victims house/employment/anywhere they may be.
- Not to contact the victim.
- Pay restitution in the amount of $265.
The Crown tells the court that his sentence satisfies the need for general deterrence to discourage this type of behaviour in the future from not only Michano, but other criminals.
At this point the Judge demands Michano to stand up, as she is about to speak to the criminal. Her Honour asks Michano if she has anything to say, she declines. The Judge tells the court that she has heard Michano’s Gladu factors and has considered them when making her decision. The Judge reminds the court that she acknowledges Michano’s opiate addiction but scolds Michano about her choice of victim, being a “very vulnerable person” and that she knew exactly how to take advantage of him, using a name that the victim recognized.
Her Honour points out that Michano’s behaviour, pretending to be the DSSAB property manager was extremely aggravating and contributed to her poor choice of actions that day. “The reason is that this individual has a disability and we are all called on to protect them from people like you.” – Judge.
The Judge tells the court that Michano has a very lengthy criminal record with multiple fraud charges in her recent history. Her Honour tells Michano that she is uncertain if her fraudulent behaviour is apart of her opiate addiction. The Judge acknowledges that Michano has been taking actions which work her towards sobriety and reminds her that recovery should continue after she is released from jail.
Her Honour acknowledges that Michano not parenting her children is a Gladu factor but it is not clear whether h the Judge means that Michano’s children already have -Gladu factors, or if Michano the fraudster is the one experiencing Galdu factors.
Restitution is ordered to be paid in full by the end of Michano’s probation. Michano’s other charge is withdrawn by the Crown due to a plea deal made which avoided a lengthy trial. Plea deals often offer criminals an alternative to going to trial if they believe they will be found guilty or choose to take responsibility for their actions. A guilty plea saves the courts time as well as tax-payers dollars as it is easier and cheaper to run a 20 minute court hearing where someone pleads guilty rather than an often multiple days long trial.
Michano is escorted back into the basement of the courthouse by Thunder Bay Police Service Special Constables, where she will remain until prisoners get transported back to the Thunder Bay Correctional Centre. she will likely be out of jail just in time for Christmas.