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Former TTC security officers await sentencing for writing phony tickets to homeless people

The TTC logo, photographed Jan. 25, 2011.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

The former security officers for the Toronto Transit Commission were slacking off when they were supposed to be working. To cover their tracks, they wrote fraudulent tickets in the names of unsuspecting homeless people.

After a five-year journey through the courts, the three men are weeks from learning their fate in what Crown Attorney Derek Ishak on Tuesday called "a repeated, flagrant, knowing breach of trust."

In a sentencing hearing in Ontario Superior Court, Mr. Ishak noted that the obstruction of justice charge normally merits jail time and suggested three to 12 months. The lawyers for Jan Posthumus, Svetomir Catic and Michael Schmidt countered with calls for community services and fines, with perhaps some much-shorter length of sentence served on the weekend.

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"He feels he may be killed if he's incarcerated," said Stacey Taraniuk, who is representing Mr. Posthumus and described at length his client's journey from the fruit orchard of his parents' home, through military school to today.

According to the Crown, in 2012, the year before their arrest, Mr. Schmidt earned about $142,000, Mr. Catic about $108,000 and Mr. Posthumus about $89,000.

The men had good professional track records, including commendations for handling difficult situations. But investigators looking into allegations of job misconduct found that they weren't doing the work they claimed.

The men had spent time shopping and doing other non-work activities while they were officially on duty as TTC security officers. On different occasions they were found to have visited a Bell store, done shopping at Lowe's and stopped at a Lululemon.

This shirking wasn't immediately obvious because tickets were being issued during the times when they weren't working.

However, the trial showed that the tickets were issued in the names of homeless people who were regulars in the transit system, and were thus familiar to the officers. Some of these people, unaware that tickets had been issued in their names, were convicted in absentia and could have been subject to arrest for not paying fines they didn't know they'd been given.

Each of the former security officers was convicted of multiple counts of fabricating evidence and attempting to obstruct justice.

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Mr. Schmidt had been the sergeant of the men's platoon and was described Tuesday by Mr. Ishak as "the ringleader." He was convicted of writing 28 of the phony tickets. Mr. Catic, who sometimes filled in as unit head, was convicted of issuing 13 fraudulent tickets. Mr. Posthumus was newer on the job and was convicted of issuing four phony tickets.

The Crown is seeking a year for Mr. Schmidt, six to nine months for Mr. Catic and three months for Mr. Posthumus.

Mr. Taraniuk, representing Mr. Posthumus, took exception with the Crown's contention that the status of the three former TTC officers made them akin to police. Because they were not, he argued, his client's actions were "a small-b breach of trust." He suggested community service and probation, with his client serving a sentence at home.

Acting for the other two men was Gary Clewley. He argued that it would be possible to have a blended sentence, laying out possible scenarios of 45 to 90 days in jail, served on weekends, plus six or more months of a conditional sentence.

Justice S. Ford Clements reserved his decision until Feb. 21.

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