A man convicted of defrauding members of Ottawa’s gay community is out of jail and was allegedly spotted at Centretown Pub June 27.
Richard Lee Maracle’s crimes date back to 2001 when he was found guilty of forging documents. The Ottawa Police Service estimates the total combined loss for Maracle's 2001 offences were in excess of $10,000.
In 2005, Maracle, who also uses the alias Rick L Driedger Jr, pleaded guilty to multiple charges of fraud. Maracle used chat sites such as Gay.com to gain his targets’ trust. He would then persuade his targets to cash his cheques, which would bounce, leaving his targets short the cash they had given him upfront in exchange for the unsupported cheques, police told Xtra in 2005.
Last year, Maracle was again charged with several counts of fraud under $5,000, theft of a motor vehicle and theft under $5,000. Police say he would ask friends and acquaintances to rent cars for him under their names and then disappear with the vehicles.
The witness who spotted him at Centretown Pub last week alleges he overheard Maracle claiming to be a victim of the recent Calgary flood.
“It took me a couple of minutes to recognize him. He was definitely at CP,” claims the witness, who asked to remain anonymous. “He was with some other sort of rough-looking young guy. Which pretty much follows his thing; he likes to hang out with young people. He was playing on some ploy that he was in Calgary and he was a victim of the flooding,” the witness alleges. “I don’t know if that’s going to be his ploy of how he gets into people’s homes . . . all he needs is a little bit of information about you. Your cell phone, your phone number, family names and then he just rips you apart.”
Xtra’s attempt to contact Maracle proved unsuccessful. Police say he is of no fixed address.
Xtra contacted a man previously targeted by Maracle for his reaction.
“This is really hard for me to talk about,” the target replied via Facebook. “Richard messed me up in more ways than one and I haven't really dealt with it so much. I don't think I'll ever be the same person again.”
Detective Martin Cardinal with the Ottawa Police Service’s fraud section confirms that Maracle was recently released from prison, but says Maracle’s 2012 crimes did not involve members of the gay community.
“Obviously, there have been prior incidents where he specifically targeted the gay community, in particular cheque frauds,” Cardinal says. “I would go ahead and say be very careful when it comes to any type of proposal or deal that seems too good to be true, specifically from Mr Maracle or anybody else and to do a little bit of research . . . The internet is probably the best place to see if this person comes up with any warnings. And to exercise diligence when it comes to that and to not get caught up in these types of scams.”
One previous target of Maracle’s has created a Facebook page to warn potential targets.