Man charged with impersonating Fort McMurray evacuee
By Bigoa Machar
While it’s a beautiful thing to see Albertans come together to aid those impacted by the Fort McMurray fire, that kindness can be taken advantage of. This was showcased by a British Columbia man by the name of Darryl Rondeau, 45, who was taken in by the town of Claresholm, a town about an hour south of Okotoks. Rondeau and his wife came to the town at the beginning of May, claiming they had lost everything they had in the fire. According to residents, the couple received free food, clothing and accommodations from businesses in the town, something that nobody is all too impressed with.
“After we fed them and they had the most expensive thing on the menu we said, ‘Well, I think they’re just taking advantage of the situation to begin with,'” says Keith Carlson, a restaurant owner in Claresholm. “So it didn’t surprise me a whole lot.”
The RCMP received a formal complaint about the couple on May 12 for freeloading and soliciting the people of Claresholm. Three days later, Rondeau was charged with fraud under $5,000. If found guilty, Rondeau faces up to six months in jail or a fine of $2,000. Cpl. Dalyn Orsten of the Claresholm RCMP says the whole situation was fishy from the beginning, as the two did not register with the Red Cross.
“From there it was kind of like, ‘These guys aren’t who they say they are,’ and we just kept digging,” said Orsten.
Orsten says it is likely that as they speak to more victims, more charges will be laid. Police are also asking those who have given money to the Rondeau couple to come forward.
“He will be looking at additional charges in the end as well,” said Orsten. “Every time he presented himself as a victim and somebody gave him money or whatever it was, that can be a separate charge as well.”
Orsten also says the worst part of this entire situation is that the people of Claresholm may not be so welcoming the next time anyone needs help. While it may leave a bad taste in some mouths, Calrson says he won’t let this bad experience change the way he sees people.
“We’re not going to change our views based on one sour experience,” he said.