Ontario man’s dash for cash ends at a Nunavut jail
Peter Schurm, 51, found guilty of possession of proceeds of crime
An Ontario man who visited Iqaluit for two days in February 2010 and tried to leave with a suitcase full of illegally-acquired cash has been sentenced to six months in jail, which he will likely serve at the Baffin Correctional Centre.
Peter Schurm, 51, will spend another 12 months on probation after being found guilty of possession of the proceeds of crime.
That’s according to the terms of a sentence handed down by Justice Susan Cooper Feb. 15 at the Nunavut Court of Justice in Iqaluit.
Court documents show Schurm was arrested Feb. 23, 2010 at the Iqaluit airport, where he was leaving for Ottawa.
Iqaluit RCMP received a text message from cargo screeners telling them that a suitcase appeared to have a large amount of cash in it, says the court judgment, dated Dec. 12, 2012.
Police arrived at the airport, viewed the suitcase through the screening device, and saw what appeared to be bundles of cash worth at least $75,000.
Schurm had paid for a last-minute ticket with a debit card, the judgment says, and he had checked the suitcase as luggage to be transported in the cargo hold of the plane.
The suitcase was later searched and found to contain $115,035 in Canadian currency and three pillows.
Police then arrested Schurm for possession of the proceeds of crime.
At the local RCMP detachment he signed a paper saying “he does not own the money and has no interest in it.”
In her judgment, Cooper found that the manner in which the money was carried and transported, the denominations that made up the cash, and the circumstances of Schurm’s trip to Iqaluit all supported the conclusion that the money was the proceeds of crime.
“There is no other reasonable inference which can be made except that the money is the proceeds of crime and I make such a finding,” she said.
Some of the evidence presented at the trial included the nature of Schurm’s trip to Iqaluit.
He had arrived on Feb. 21 and left Feb. 23, “a relatively short trip to Iqaluit,” Cooper found.
Then, there was the matter of the money he left with, which was stuffed into his suitcase and did not conform to how banks or other institutions normally bundle money.
Instead of being bundled by denomination, the money included a variety of denominations bundled in $1,000 batches.
As well, 18 of the bundles had exactly $5,000 in them, with the remaining five bundles varying from $5,000 by an amount not greater than $120.
And the majority of the bills were also of relatively recent production.
They were mainly $20 bills — “the most common denomination in street trafficking” — and they were sealed.
That sealing of the bundles also helped seal Cooper’s verdict: an expert witness testified that “drug traffickers heat seal their cash proceeds to ensure that the money is not tampered with by couriers transporting it, to decrease the chances of detection by a drug dog.”
Cooper also noted that it’s “significant” that such a large sum of money was placed with the airline as checked luggage given the risk that such luggage might be lost or tampered with.
Moreover, the way the airline ticket was purchased – with a debit card — ensured that the only individual attached to that money would be Schurm.
“For those dealing with illegitimate funds, this minimizes the number of individuals at risk at any particular time,” Cooper said.
The defence had suggested there were possible legitimate sources for the money, such as revenues from a local restaurant.
“The difficulty with this proposition is that there is nothing in the evidence to suggest the accused ever worked in a restaurant in Iqaluit. Indeed, the short duration of his stay suggests the contrary,” Cooper said.
Cooper also remained unconvinced by a suggestion that Schurm brought the money so he could purchase carvings.
But that, she said, did not address the issue of where the money came from, only where it might have been spent.
If Schurm had come to Iqaluit to buy carvings, then he should have had a suitcase full of carvings, not money: “while it seems that the accused did have one carving in his possession when he was arrested, this is hardly sufficient evidence to establish he was here as an art buyer.”