Toyota shuts down car giveaway, Cranbrook man under investigation for fraud

Individual suspected in a large fraud, after initiating a fundraiser for Fort MacMurray under the name, “Fort Mac Fundraiser,

  • Nov. 17, 2016 3:00 p.m.

Barry Coulter

A long-awaited draw for a Toyota Corolla — a fundraiser for the victims of this year’s Fort McMurray wildfire — is off, after police informed Alpine Toyota the fellow who originally spearheaded the giveaway is under investigation.

A Cranbrook man is currently suspected in a large fraud, after initiating a fundraiser for Fort MacMurray under the name, “Fort Mac Fundraiser,” RCMP said Thursday.

“Alpine Toyota has been informed by the local RCMP that the individual involved in the organizing of this fundraiser does not have the required licensing in order to proceed,” a press release from the local car dealership said. “Alpine Toyota has been instructed not to move ahead with the Corolla giveaway under any circumstances.”

Alpine Toyota is compiling a list of all the recorded tickets sold and will be contacting the purchasers to start issuing refunds.

In May, 2016, a wildfire swept through Fort McMurray, destroying 2,400 homes and buildings and forcing the largest wildfire evacuation in Albertan history. Communities around Canada rallied to help out. At that time, a resident of Cranbrook initiated a raffle in the name of “Fort Mac Fundraiser” with the assistance of local Cranbrook businesses to raise money and supplies in support of families victimized by the Fort McMurray Fire.  Local Cranbrook Businesses were quite generous in providing goods and services for the raffle, all for the good of the residents of Fort MacMurray.

On November 15, Cranbrook RCMP received information about this raffle and that it may be fraudulent in nature. BC Gaming Corporation, confirmed that no gaming license was ever granted for this raffle.The Cranbrook RCMP are actively investigating this alleged fraud.  A suspect has been identified and police are actively pursuing this investigation.  Anyone with any information about this fraud is asked to contact the Cranbrook RCMP at 250-489-3471.

Bruce Smith, Dealer Principal at Alpine Toyota, said the news from the RCMP Thursday “came out of left field,” although there had been difficulties with the giveaway before.

“He approached us on the first fundraiser, after the Fort McMurray fire started. He’d lived in Fort McMurray for a long time, and it was his idea to bring a big van down, and he was to take donations up there. We raised almost $20,000 in merchandise and a bunch of cash, maybe $5,000 or $6,000. And he did this in four or five locations around town. And he took it up to Fort McMurray — apparently.”

The individual in question then approached Alpine Toyota, asking if they would put a car up for a fundraising draw. Smith agreed, but told the man a proper lottery license was needed, and all proper legal procedures needed to be followed.

“He said ‘yeah, I’m an old hand at it, I’ll get it done.’ And nothing got done.

“And we had some irregularities in the ticket sales, so we pulled the tickets from him. Because there wasn’t much cash coming with the tickets. We realized we had a bit of a problem, so we started to spearhead the ticket drive ourselves.”

Alpine Toyota sold about $13,000 worth of tickets. The car itself was $23,000, Smith was willing to take the loss — “chalking it up to experience.”

Then Alpine Toyota found out the numbers the man had given them for the lottery license were made up.

“And I got a call from the Mounties saying don’t draw for this thing, there’s something wrong. So I pulled in my horns and stopped the draw — it was going to be tomorrow morning. But now I’m not going to do it under any circumstances, it’s not legal, and there are a whole bunch of problems.

The investigation is ongoing.

“Alpine Toyota would like to apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused and to assure the public that our intention was merely to supply the vehicle for the raffle in order to assist those affected by the Fort MacMurray fires,” the statement from Alpine Toyota said.

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