Calgary man charged in “white van scam”

Lethbridge Regional Police have charged a 29-year-old Calgary man in connection with a fraudulent scheme known as the “white van scam.”

On Nov. 24, 2014 police responded to multiple reports of a male approaching people in local parking lots attempting to sell HD projectors out of the back of a white SUV. The male told would-buyers the equipment was high-end merchandise worth thousands of dollars, when in fact it was not.  Following investigation the subject was located and arrested without incident.

The “white van scam” as it’s commonly known, typically involves a clean-cut, polite individual – often operating a white van or similar vehicle – approach people in parking lots, at red lights, gas stations and other locations, offering to sell them high-end electronics at bargain prices. The claim often made is the subject is an audio/visual systems installer, or similar professional, who was given “extra” product from the warehouse and, for varying reasons, needs to dispose of the equipment quickly. Potential customers will then be shown a convincing website or brochure listing the equipment’s retail price at thousands of dollars.

“The so-called “white van scam” has been around in one form or another for decades,” said Kristen Harding, Executive Officer. “Whether it’s speakers, receivers, TVs or in this case, projectors, the goods being peddled aren’t stolen, but are held out to be top of the line when in fact they are cheaply made and extremely poor quality.”

The sale itself is not criminal, but when the methods employed by the ‘salesperson’ include threats, intimidation or overtly false statements or claims about the product, then criminal charges may be warranted.

“The best advice we can give to people is if something sounds too good to be true – it is,” added Harding.

David Matthew Swetlikoe, 29, of Calgary, is charged with fraud under $5,000, possession of the proceeds of crime and three counts of attempted fraud under. Swetlikoe was released on a recognizance and is scheduled to return to court Dec. 9.