‘An absolute disgrace’: Sarnia senior accused of fraud just served six months for similar schemes

A senior recently accused by Sarnia police of defrauding local residents with fake but convincing stories about his ailing wife to get small amounts of money recently finished serving a 200-day jail sentence for a series of similar schemes.

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Bernd Adamek, 65, also received a tongue-lashing from the sentencing judge for his behavior.

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“This activity is most disturbing. It’s an absolute disgrace,” Justice Paul Kowalyshyn said during the Dec. 8 hearing. “You really put the screws to a lot of well-meaning and good-hearted people.”

The court at the time heard Adamek frantically approached several people between July and October 2023 with a made-up story about needing gas money to get to London as his ailing wife – usually a heart attack or stroke but sometimes a car crash – was being rushed to hospital there.

“There was, in fact, no medical emergency,” assistant Crown attorney Meaghan Jones said at the time.

The retired pipefitter successfully duped a woman who lives on Murphy Road out of $15, got $30 from a man who was at the Devine Street Gospel Chapel, $60 from a man who lives on Brigden Road – he made a special trip to a bank in Bright’s Grove for Adamek – and $100 from a stranger on the street. Several other failed attempts, including at Trinity Anglican Church, the Community Living Sarnia-Lambton building on Exmouth Street, the Exmouth Street Metro grocery store, and the Indian Road South Taco Bell.

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“It’s no joke to go ahead and talk about a stroke that didn’t take place with a spouse. It’s no joke, it’s not funny, to go ahead and talk about a heart attack, to talk about needing money for an ambulance,” Kowalyshyn said at the time.

In total, Adamek pleaded guilty to five counts of fraud worth less than $5,000, four counts of attempted fraud worth less than $5,000, and one count of breaching lease. One of the incidents took place just three days after he was granted lease last summer and ordered not to solicit funds from any person who wasn’t a relative of his.

Additionally, he pleaded guilty to single counts of theft worth less than $5,000 and possessing stolen property worth less than $5,000 for taking metal tie plates and large flanges that weren’t his to Sarnia scrap yards and getting about $50 each time.

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Defense lawyer Jamie Guggisberg explained to the judge a drug addiction was driving his client’s behavior.

“In the conversations we’ve had, he acknowledges the desperation that he felt he was pushed to, to try and source funds from any means possible… to secure funds for drugs,” he said. “He’s struggled with that battle many, many years.”

Adamek told the court at the time he was sorry and ashamed.

“I’d like to apologize to all the people I took advantage of. I’m not proud. I’m ashamed of what I did,” he said. “I apologize to their families.”

Adamek got 120 days’ credit in pre-plea custody, leaving 80 days left to serve as of early December. Along with the 200-day jail sentence, he was ordered to pay his victims back and not to contact the people or places he targeted while on probation for the next 1.5 years.

“OK, sir, let’s hope we don’t see you back here again,” Kowalyshyn said at the time.

Adamek returned to court March 22 following a two-day search that featured a pair of high-speed getaways, Sarnia police said. The list of new charges includes five counts of fraud worth less than $5,000, two counts each of flight from police and dangerous driving, and a dozen counts of breaching probation, police said. He appeared in court again Wednesday, where the case was adjourned to April 12.

The new charges haven’t been tested in court.

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