Too frightened to face the thugs who loaned him money, David John Mills sat in an undisclosed courtroom and took his lumps for bilking two people out of their cars.
The Kelowna man is in hiding after he says members of the Independent Soldiers confronted him in the Kelowna Law Courts last September. Mills has paid back far more than the amount he borrowed, but the organized-crime group is still after him, his lawyer West Munson said.
Mills felt so threatened, police and courthouse sheriffs escorted him to his vehicle, Munson said. He later pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud and asked to stay out of Kelowna for this week's sentencing. He appeared by video feed from somewhere in B.C. as a judge gave him an 18-month conditional sentence.
"I'm still in fear for my family. That's why I don't talk to them at all. I got in over my head and made a lot of mistakes," Mills said. "I want to . . . move on and get some closure."
Mills, 42, operated D-L Mills Auto next to Winn Automotive Group, a properly licensed dealer and consignment dealer, in 2009. Mills was licensed to sell cars as a separate business, but not on consignment.
Even though his victims took their vehicles to the Winn Automotive lot, Mills dealt with them. He promised a woman to pay her $41,000 once he sold her 2004 BMW and he'd keep the rest. Months later, Mills promised a man $31,000 of the proceeds once he sold his BMW.
Mills used both cars as collateral on a loan and exchanged the vehicles with another dealer for a Hummer, court heard. The dealer sold the BMWs in the Lower Mainland.
Mills gave no money to the original owners and never told them he'd sold the cars. He moved his business to Reid's Corner and later closed it without informing them. The owners eventually learned what happened and complained.
"Mr. Mills' actions were quite brazen and he really had no hope of getting away with this," said Judge Jane Cartwright.
Those who sell on consignment put up a $30,000 letter of credit toward a compensation fund in case a consignment sale goes wrong. The fund paid $40,000 to the Hummer dealer so he could pay $20,000 each to the people who bought the BMWs from him. One of the original owners received $20,000 to cover a lien on his vehicle. And Winn Automotive's insurance company was paid out $10,000.
Cartwright agreed Mills breached the trust of the people he dealt with.
"The transactions were unauthorized. He brought in unsuspecting people and he knew he couldn't do what he was trying to do."
Cartwright ordered him to pay $70,000 in restitution - $60,000 to the Motor Dealer Customer Compensation fund and $10,000 to Forsens, the underwriters who covered Winn Enterprises.
The judge said the apparent extortion from the Independent Soldiers was "horrifying," but there's no evidence it's true except for "the word of a man who's convicted of dishonest crimes."
The frauds are similar to employees stealing from their employer, Cartwright said. She ordered him to obey an overnight curfew for six months and to complete 100 hours of community service. She barred him from drinking alcohol or using drugs, and from selling or buying vehicles except for his own use.