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Tory campaigner guilty of Canada 'robocall' election fraud

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

A 25-year-old campaign worker on Thursday became the sole person to be convicted in an election fraud that cast suspicion on Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's 2011 win.

Michael Sona was found guilty of "wilfully preventing or endeavoring to prevent an elector from voting at an election," said a statement.

He faces up to five years in prison and, or a $5,000 fine at a sentencing hearing on October 17.

"It's a very serious crime for people to interfere with the democratic rights of citizens in this country to exercise their right to vote," prosecutor Croft Michaelson said outside a Guelph, Ontario courthouse.

"We view this as a very serious offense and... we'll be making very forceful submissions on sentencing in October," he said.

A probe into "robocalls" that misdirected Canadian voters to fake polling stations during the last election had dominated headlines for two years.

Opposition parties have described the misleading pre-recorded calls claiming to be from Elections Canada as a "heinous affront to democracy," suggesting they may have been part of a coordinated effort to discourage supporters of the Liberal and New Democratic parties from getting to the ballot box.

Elections Canada, after being inundated with complaints from across Canada, investigated the rogue calls, aided by the federal police, but closed all but one probe involving Soma in Guelph, west of Toronto.

Elections Canada traced the calls in Guelph to a single telephone number that showed up on call displays and a disposable "burner" cell phone registered to an unknown "Pierre Poutine" at a fictitious address in Joliette, northeast of Montreal. (Poutine is a Quebec dish of French fries smothered in cheese curds and gravy.)

Court files stated that the cell phone was used to set up an account to make the phony calls two days before the May 2, 2011 election at an Edmonton, Alberta call center.

The call center company, Racknine Inc., worked for the Tories' national campaign, but said it was unaware that its servers were being used to make "fake calls."

Harper has insisted that the Conservatives had absolutely "no role in any of this."

After three back-to-back minority governments, the Tories on May 2, 2011 won 166 out of 308 seats in parliament, gaining their first majority government since 1988.

amc/jm

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140814/tory-campaigner-guilty-canada-robocall-election-fraud