HAMILTON, Bermuda, CMC - An American school guidance counselor was jailed for two-and-a-half years on Thursday and ordered to pay back US$200,000 to a Canadian teacher after being convicted of using false statements to convince her to invest her life savings in a real estate scheme.
Cedric Oates, a 42-year-old father of four, was sentenced after being convicted of fraud by a Supreme Court jury last October.
The jury found Oates guilty of making statements he knew to be false or misleading to induce Dianne Laird to invest $345,000 over a three-month period in 2009.
Laird, who has since returned to Canada, told the court Oates convinced her to invest her life savings in the scheme, promising she would have her initial investment returned within a matter of months.
The court heard she had not seen a single penny of her investment returned.
Crown counsel Nicole Smith said Laird “constantly asked for evidence, such as promissory notes” that Oates maintained would be given to her as proof that the 2009 scheme would pay off.
No evidence was ultimately provided, Smith said, adding: “That’s dishonest, that’s mean, and that’s greedy.”
Oates, who declined to take the stand during the trial, faces deportation from Bermuda after he completes his prison term.
He told officers in a 2010 interview that he warned Laird he could not guarantee when her investment would be returned but that he still intended to do so.
However, he agreed the entire matter could have been avoided if he had presented the physical education teacher with paperwork about the deal.
The court heard that Laird and Oates became friends in 2008 while she was training for the women’s national basketball team in Bermuda.
She was the team captain while he was an assistant coach.
Oates repeatedly told her about a friend, Michael Hopkins, who was making good money in the real estate market in Tacoma, Washington.
After learning that she had saved around $350,000 to build her dream home in Canada, he pressured her into investing in the scheme.
Oates hung his head in the dock as Acting Puisne Judge Charlene Scott sentenced him on Thursday.
“I’d just like to say that it was never my intention at any point to cause Ms Laird harm. It was my desire to make sure she was paid back. I’m very sorry for her loss. I am at the mercy of the court” Oates told the court.