Special Report


RAE CORELLI August 12 1996
Special Report


RAE CORELLI August 12 1996


Special Report


Henry Halm gambled that Canada would give him sanctuary from the United States, which wanted to put him in jail, but he lost. Now in the Clinton Correctional Facility at Dannemora, N.Y., Halm is about seven months into a sentence of seven to 21 years for sodomy, which will likely become nine to 23 years when they punish him for fleeing north into Ontario. That may explain his bitterness as he sits in the prison visitors’ room beneath a painted wall mural of forest and flowers to talk about his 2lh years as a fugitive that ended when Immigration Canada tossed him back across the border. “I’ll be 62 or 63 before I get out of here,” says the 47-year-old Halm, a divorced father and onetime candidate for mayor of Elmira, N.Y. “But I dug a hole for myself so I don’t ask anybody for visits or anything.”

Halm may not get many visitors but up until he was deported last winter, he belonged to a select company—the thousands of foreign fugitives, mostly Americans, who regularly flee to Canada to avoid prosecution or imprisonment. No one knows how many are here at any given time. But at the end of June, Immigration had arrest warrants for 9,300 people, a mix of criminals and relatively minor offenders such as failed refugee claimants.

And authorities say more and more alien lawbreakers are turning to Canada for refuge.

An FBI spokesman at the U.S.

Embassy in Ottawa says flatly: “There are literally scores, scores upon scores, of fugitives up here at any given time.” And, he adds, “the number coming to Canada is on the rise.” Kimberly Prost, director of the federal justice department’s international assistance group, formally established in 1994 to co-ordinate extradition requests from other countries, agrees. “I don’t know what the cause is, but the volume is on the increase,” she says.

The fugitives still hiding likely resemble the ones already caught in an unexpectedly productive roundup of foreign criminals that began about two years ago. Along with a slew of run-of-the-mill offenders, the catch includes suspected or convicted killers, professional hit men, serial rapists, armed robbers, big-time drug traffickers, multimillion-dollar swindlers, and small-time thieves, pimps and pushers. Many had been in Canada for years, using forged or stolen documents—drivers’ licences, passports, work histories and birth certificates—to get welfare and unemployment insurance benefits, medical and hospital care, and sometimes legit-

imate jobs. Others continued to live by crime—robbery, drug dealing, even murder for profit.

The drive to clean house was launched by the RCMP and Immigration Canada, working closely with police in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. By the end of 1995, they had arrested more than 3,600 alien lawbreakers and deported or extradited most of them. That total will likely exceed 5,000 by the end of this year.

One explanation for the scale of the invasion is America’s widening war on violent crime. Thirty-eight states now electrocute, hang, lethally inject or shoot convicted killers. Fourteen states have enacted so-called three-strikes-and-you’re-out laws, which mandate a sentence of 25 years to life for a third felony conviction. Several states have introduced minimum sentences and abolished parole. “Partly as a result of that,” the FBI source said, “we’ve pushed people out of the United States to the next closest place they can go, which is Canada.”

And every week, they are being pursued, arrested and kicked

back out of Canada, to the United States and a host of other countries. The majority, like the six-foot, six-inch, 300-lb. Halm, are deported. The rest are extradited, principally to the United States, to face trial or a return to prison. Dozens of others languish in Canadian jails while their lawyers, usually paid by the Canadian taxpayer through provincial legal aid plans, collect fees that can easily reach $10,000 and beyond to challenge their client’s deportation or extradition. “That’s the harsh reality,” says noted Toronto criminal lawyer Edward Greenspan. “Our government pays the bills for a lot of these guys.”

The bills, in fact, can go a lot higher than $10,000, as Toronto lawyer Paul Slansky found out At 1 p.m. on March 1, Henry Halm, having lost his appeal against his 1990 conviction on five counts of sodomy with boys age 15 and 16, was supposed to be in an Elmira, N.Y., courtroom to be committed to custody. Instead, he had elected to run to southern Ontario, driving across the border without incident. “All they asked me was just the normal stuff, where are you going and when are you coming back,” Halm says, “and I said I was just going to visit friends for the day.”

In the following six weeks, Halm used his own passport to visit Amsterdam and return to Canada, registered under his own name at a succession of motels in and

Police hi nabbed 3,600 alien fugitives— with 9,000 on the lam

around Toronto and, when he ran out of money, openly slept in his car in a waterfront park. On April 16, he was arrested by a uniformed policeman who had run a check on his New York licence plate. Until catching fugitives became a priority, that plate number could easily have been buried in police paperwork for weeks. Ordered deported, Halm hired Slansky who won one major victory in his 2V2-year battle: the Federal Court of Canada ruled in February, 1995, that the Canadian law setting the legal age of consent for anal intercourse at 18 was unconstitutional because it discriminated against homosexuals. (The age is 14 for other sexual activity.)

As a result, the offences for which Halm was charged were no longer a crime in Canada—and therefore not grounds for deportation. But Immigration, determined to get rid of him, fell back on Halm’s failure to disclose that he was a bail-jumper when he crossed the border. On Dec. 19, 1995, he was driven to the Fort Erie, Ont.-Buffalo, N.Y., crossing and handed over to Elmira police. ‘You’re a baby-raper, that’s what it’s considered,” Halm says, eyes moving over the room’s moulded plastic chairs in pink and orange. “So I could easily get killed up here. But if it happens, it happens.” Slansky, meanwhile, had put in $60,000 worth of work on Halm’s behalf for which he never got paid; Halm was penniless and legal aid had refused to help on the grounds that the case lacked merit.

Ottawa’s campaign to clean house was launched in July, 1994, by then-immigration Minister Sergio Marchi. The Canadian public—not only worried about crime but, as opinion polls have showed, critical of immigration levels—was outraged over several widely publicized deportation-related felonies. One of the four men charged after 23year-old Georgina Leimonis died of a shotgun blast during a late-night robbery of a Toronto restaurant on April 5, 1994, had been ordered deported two years previously. But the appeal division of the Immigration and Refugee Board had upheld his appeal for a second chance. In British Columbia, José Salinas-Mendoza reappeared in Vancouver in May—six months after he had been deported to El Salvador for accumulating 12 criminal convictions including sexual assault. And in June, Clinton Gayle, ordered deported to Jamaica in 1991, shot and killed Toronto police Const. Todd Baylis and wounded his partner. Gayle was convicted of first-degree murder last January and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Less than a month after Baylis’s funeral, the RCMP-Immigration task force went to work. Twenty Mounties—12 in Toronto and four each in Montreal and Vancouver—joined immigration teams in the fugitive hunt. At the same time, immigration officers were assigned to work with the police departments in the three cities. But right away there were problems. Among them: Immigration’s computer system was not programmed to follow and identify those in its 11 million files who had broken the law either here or abroad but not been deported. Again, although the department always counted deportations, it did not know, prior to 1994, how many of those involved were criminals.

When he announced the crackdown, Marchi estimated that about 600 individuals had been singled

The catch in killers, rapis I , big time drug dc

out for deportation for serious crimes. Less than two months later, the task force had turned up nearly 1,300 who had committed offences punishable under Canadian law by prison sentences of 10 years or more. Len Jodoin, then director of Immigration’s enforcement branch, conceded that the department had seriously underestimated the situation.

The dimensions of that problem soon became apparent by the end of 1994, the crusaders had collared and deported 1,738 criminals—three times Marchi’s estimate, and more than one-quarter of all the people, including failed refugee claimants, ordered to leave that year. On Feb. 7, 1995, the campaign got a major boost when the Commons enacted Bill C-44, giving the government power to fast-track the worst offenders out of the country, seize phoney immigration documents from the mail and deny felons the right to make refugee claims. “Canadians will not tolerate those who abuse our generosity and violate our laws,” Marchi said.

Even so, Reform MPs and the police condemned the legislation as inadequate. Canadian Police Association executive director Scott Newark, demanding stronger barriers at the border, said the law reminded him of “putting a BandAid on the Hindenburg.” Marchi, however, was committedly upbeat. “There is no welcome in this country for thugs and evildoers,” he proclaimed. “They can wipe their feet elsewhere.” Last September, Marchi and Solicitor-General Herb Gray announced that the task force would become permanent. By the end of 1995, the two-year total of criminal deportations had reached 3,494. The justice department estimated that an additional 200 to 300 aliens had either been extradited or were fighting to avoid being sent home.

Welcome or not, the thugs and evildoers have kept coming, not only from the United States but from around the world. And against that threat, Canadian law enforcement agencies have gradually built simpler, faster communication among themselves and with fugitive hunters abroad—Interpol (the international police organization that acts as an information clearinghouse), the U.S. and European justice departments, the FBI, Britain’s Scotland Yard, and police in Latin America, the Far East, even Russia. The immigration department has put more investigators and so-called removals officers at its main offices in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.

The 31-member unit in Vancouver is larger than it has ever been. “We’re starting to deal more effectively with foreign criminals,” says enforcement manager Rob Johnston, “and we’re serious about it.” And because the focus on criminals has made the job riskier, immigration officers across Canada are now equipped with batons and pepper spray

(although not the firearms carried by U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service officers).

Anatoli Fedorkin’s case illustrates the potential cost, manpower demands and hazards implicit in chasing outlaws in flight. The 34year-old Fedorkin, an Estonian, entered Canada on Nov. 27, 1993, at Niagara Falls, Ont., and promptly disappeared. His Russian passport later turned out to be bogus. In the months that followed, he was arrested for shoplifting in Ottawa and Gatineau, Que., but failed to show up for his trials. Last October, an Ottawa judge put him on a year’s probation for defrauding the regional welfare system of $8,000. But then Fedorkin tried to get a social insurance number, using the name of a Toronto man who already had one, and officials called police. From Interpol, they learned that Fedorkin, wanted for murder in Estonia, was a suspected contract killer and considered violent, armed and dangerous. He was finally arrested by an RCMP-Immigration team last April 23 in an apartment building in the Vancouver west end. Escorted to the airport by a city police SWAT unit, he was flown back to Estonia on May 9, accompanied by two Mounties and an immigration officer.

Police assume that most aliens on the run are either armed or dangerous—or both. In mid-September, 1994, 33-year-old Jerome

Public outrage led to a novel approach

Trafny, serving five years to life for first-degree rape and armed bank robbery, walked away from Utah’s Bonneville Community Correctional Center for sex offenders two days after he had been paroled there from Point of the Mountain state prison. He fled to Toronto, using stolen identification documents mailed to him by his girlfriend who had preceded him.

Once in the city, Trafny moved into her apartment and spent the fall and winter collecting welfare, getting free medical care for his glaucoma and walking the dog. On March 25,1995, waiting police, acting on a tip, grabbed him as he returned home. He waived extradition and was simply driven to the Fort Erie-Buffalo border and turned over to the FBI. “He swore we’d never take him back alive,” said a Toronto policeman. “Well, he was wrong.”

Trafny fell victim to the 2V2-year-old Metropolitan Toronto Police Fugitive Squad—the only big-city police unit of its kind in the country—which collaborates closely with both Immigration and the Mounties. The six undercover cops in jeans, sport shirts and running shoes, backed up by a high-risk arrest team, work out of a heavily secured, anonymous one-storey building in North Toronto. On the squad room walls are photos of America’s most wanted, a sign reading: “Let them rot in hell,” and a huge movie poster of Harrison Ford in The Fugitive.

Between Jan. 1 and June 15 of this year, the unit tracked down 38 foreign criminals, nearly one every four days—“and we’re not talking about guys who steal bread to feed their starving kids,” says Det.-Sgt. Bob Montrose, the section commander. ‘Who knows how many are out there? There could be hundreds. Thousands. Who can say? It’s a greater problem than we originally thought but it’s too early to try to put a number on it.” All he knows, says Montrose, is that his six cops “are extremely busy and if I had another six, I could keep them busy, too.”

His squad, and alien chasers across Canada, depend on tips, informants—and luck. Fugitives are frequently spotted by viewers of shows like NBC’s Unsolved Mysteries and FOX’s now-cancelled America’s Most Wanted; by citizens who see a familiar face in a post-office wanted poster and, now, even on the Internet, which hosts several most-wanted Web sites. “We find a lot of people because they haven’t changed their names,” Montrose says. “I guess because they’ve left home they figure they’re on a different planet. Some of them aren’t too bright, but others are very clever.” Most, like fast-food clerk Timothy Peay, fall somewhere in between. On the evening of July 14, 1994, two women, one 21 and the other 23, were savagely beaten and raped within 3 */2 hours of each other in the college town of Chico in Northern California’s Sacramento Valley. Eight days later, one of the victims picked Peay out of a police lineup, and a liquor store clerk identified him as the man who had been with the second victim shortly before she was attacked. He was charged with two counts of aggravated rape and one of burglary. When Peay failed to show up for a bail hearing, says Chico police officer Ed Port, “he was nowhere to be found—he was gone.” But not for long. Metro Toronto’s fugitive squad, acting on a tip, arrested him on Dec. 17, 1994. On July 28, following a fruitless 19-month fight against extradition, the squad drove him to Toronto international airport where he was delivered into the hands of U.S. marshals and flown back to California.

The law dealt far faster with Michael Taborn, 20, and his 22year-old girlfriend, Makeba Thomas, a onetime stripper. On Oct. 12, 1995, police in Marietta, Ga., found the body of chiropractic

student Deidre Stewart in a storage shed behind the townhouse where she had allowed Taborn and Thomas to live. Beaten with a table leg and dumped in a trash pile with a plastic bag over her head, she had been dead for about a week. Marietta police Det.-Sgt. Danny Messimer said that according to Stewart’s mother, her daughter had gone to the house to question the pair about thefts.

Stewart’s car was missing and her stolen credit cards left a trail north through Ohio. In Toronto on Oct 16, a pawnshop clerk became suspicious when a couple tried to hock an engagement ring after telling him they had just been married. He called the Metro police pawn squad and they were arrested. Charged with murder and burglary, Taborn and Thomas waived extradition and were escorted back to Georgia last March 20.

Deported or extradited criminals who end up serving long prison sentences in their home countries are not likely to be back. But hundreds of undesirables sneak back, anywhere from a day to several years after having been booted out. More than 750 of the 11,236 people deported in 1994 and 1995 had been deported at least once before. A further 700 one-time deportees tried to re-enter the country but were turned away by immigration officers. The problem, says Montrose, is that a 30to 45-day jail sentence for defying a deportation order “is not a deterrent.” Someone deported as a danger to the public, he adds, “might think twice about coming back if he knows he faces, say, a year in prison if he’s caught.”

The real issues raised by foreign fugitives are border control and public safety, but no one has been able to devise a way to keep out people who are really determined to get in. In late September, 1995—14 months into the stepped-up guerrilla war on alien crime—the immigration department asked former federal deputy justice minister Roger Tassé to examine how the department was doing its job. In his 51-page review of Immigration’s procedures and personnel made public last Feb. 22,

Tassé dramatically defined the problem. In 1995-1996, he wrote, 39 million people were expected to visit Canada and “anything approaching perfection in border control would risk bringing the movement of people, Canadians and non-Canadians alike, to a complete standstill.” That, of course, will not happen—which leaves Canadians to reflect that being a good neighbor exacts a price—and sometimes a grievous one. □