Man convicted in absentia for terror hoax

Globe and Mail
Oct. 08, 2007

VANCOUVER — When Lorne Matthew Lapoleon tried to use a “twist of terrorism” to bring the heat down on three individuals he thought were criminals, he didn't expect to become the focus of an investigation by Canada's anti-terrorism unit.

But Mr. Lapoleon – a handsome young man that the court heard was emotionally troubled and wanted to become a computer technician – is on the run from the law after being convicted in absentia of a hoax that triggered an investigation involving more than 20 officers and costing more than $100,000.

He is believed to be the first person in Canada convicted under the 2002 Public Safety Act, which criminalized terror-attack hoaxes and tightened controls on biological weapons and explosives.

He was also found guilty of public mischief, but not guilty of uttering a threat, and is facing a maximum sentence of five years in jail.

“The important thing on the part of the Crown and the police is to offer a real disincentive for this type of thing because you know the resources of the police to protect people and keep us safe from [terrorism] are always going to be taxed,” prosecutor Ron Berum said Wednesday. “It's particularly important that this kind of conduct be minimized.”

During his trial Mr. Lapoleon fled the low-rent hotel in Vancouver where he had lived for eight months, collecting welfare cheques while looking for work repairing computers.

Sam Deeby, owner of the Hotel Clifton, where rooms cost $380 a month, described Mr. Lapoleon, 25, as a quiet, shy, polite man who was always neatly dressed, and whose mother called him daily.

“He indicated to me that he was in trouble one day. He had to appear in court. I said ‘What's wrong, did you kill somebody?' He said, ‘No. It's worse. I was accused of being a terrorist.' ”

Mr. Lapoleon is thought to be hiding somewhere in Toronto or Victoria, where police have issued Crime Stopper bulletins. His picture has also been posted on YouTube.

Among other things, police are searching for him in Internet cafés, which he frequented in Vancouver, sending off messages under the alias Daniel_ Jensen.

It was one of those messages that led to him being shadowed by an anti-terrorism surveillance team and landed him in court.

The Vancouver man's problems began when he hit “send” on a computer in an Internet café on Robson Street, transmitting a fax, via a New York-based server, to the Ottawa headquarters of the Integrated National Security Enforcement Team.

The deliberately inarticulate note created “a sense of urgency and a need for immediate action,” among police anti-terrorism units in Ottawa and Vancouver, according to the court judgment.

“Hi am a Muslim and I have information on Islamic terrorist cell operating in Vancouver BC the cell members is plotting to blow up the – Royal Danish Consulate in North Vancouver [and the] United States consulate General. I am not sure what time this will happen but ... i will give u some names and address of the cell members … i am not sure ware the explosives are being kept i think at some storage room out in Burnaby close to the Rupert sky train,” stated the fax.

INSET, which was established after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, soon had Mr. Lapoleon and the three people he'd named under surveillance.

The two consulates were alerted, security was increased and dogs were deployed to search for explosives around the Rupert Street Sky Train station.

But police soon concluded the matter was a hoax, picked Mr. Lapoleon up, and quickly got a detailed confession in which he admitted he made up the information hoping to get police to investigate three people he thought were criminals.

Provincial Court Judge Gregory Rideout said the hoax was serious because since 9/11, “Canadians now live in a new world order,” and police have no alternative but to investigate all such threats.

“He was reckless and intended to mislead the police by creating the ‘twist of terrorism' so the police would deal with the three named individuals,” Judge Rideout said in finding Mr. Lapoleon guilty.

With a report from Colin Freeze in Toronto.

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