Sweet justice for thief
8-year sentence for using drugged chocolate to steal from elderly
MONTREAL — An Algerian man who apparently came to Canada with the sole intent of drugging elderly women and pilfering anything of value from their homes was sentenced to an eight-year prison term Friday after admitting to thefts in Ottawa and Montreal.
“I made an enormous error. I ask for forgiveness, especially from the victims,” Hamid Chekakri said before Quebec court Judge Thierry Nadon agreed with the joint recommendation presented to him on Friday in Montreal by prosecutor Hugo Rousse and defence lawyer Tom Pentefountas.
Nadon appeared somewhat taken aback by Chekakri’s statement. He corrected him and noted he made “many errors” only weeks after he arrived in Montreal on Oct. 5, 2017, and requested a visa.
His first theft was Nov. 17, 2017, in Ottawa, when he asked to check out a house for sale and sneaked off with some jewelry and a small safe when he left.
Between Dec. 11 and Dec. 23 last year, he used chocolate laced with a powerful sedative, clonazepam, in three thefts in Montreal. Five people in Montreal consumed the chocolates Chekakri offered them and he forced another woman to eat the laced candy.
All six fell asleep for hours and awoke to learn Chekakri had stolen from them.
In an attempt to identify the culprit, the Montreal police released information on the thefts. Chekakri saw a televised report detailing his crimes and he fled Canada on Dec. 28, crossing the U.S. border at Niagara Falls.
He was tracked down in the U.S. on March 31 as he was preparing to fly to Costa Rica. He was arrested and extradited. Clonazepam was found in his suitcase.
“The only conclusion that we can draw is that (he came to Canada to commit the thefts),” Rousse later told reporters.
During the plea hearing, Chekakri admitted he has served jail terms for similar crimes in China and Hong Kong.
In the Ottawa case, Chekakri learned that an elderly woman was selling her home and showed up unannounced asking to see it. He didn’t drug the woman, but took her jewelry and a small safe.
For his first theft in Montreal, Chekakri targeted a 77-year-old woman, first visiting her home on Dec. 6 last year while the woman’s adult daughter was present. He asked if he could see the home again the next day, and made arrangements with the daughter to visit in the afternoon.
The next morning he confirmed the appointment with the daughter but went straight to the house. The daughter called her mother and was surprised to learn Chekakri was already there, with a box of chocolates and wine in hand.
Chekakri was given the phone and the daughter told him to leave, but the mother had already eaten a chocolate. Chekakri hung up and left, but when the daughter called back, she noticed her mother had difficulty talking.
The daughter asked a relative to check on her mother. When the relative arrived, the woman was unconscious, lying on the floor.
The 77-year-old was taken to a hospital and remained there for three days while she was treated for the side-effects of the sedative. She later learned Chekakri had made off with her wallet and some cash.
Rousse read a victim-impact statement in court on Friday and said the biggest loss the woman suffered was her autonomy, for three months, because she could not live alone during her recovery.