ST. JOHN’S, N.L. —
Tussaint Yenga-Yenga sat in the back row of provincial courtroom No. 6 Wednesday and listened as two of his co-accused were sentenced to jail time for what the judge called a serious organized crime operation.
Yenga-Yenga, who is not in custody and has yet to deal with his charges in court, confirmed with a companion in French what he had heard Judge James Walsh say in English.
“Four-hundred and seventeen days remaining?” he asked the man sitting next to him, who said yes.
That’s the time left for 29-year-old Doudou Kikewa Mpumudjie to serve in Her Majesty’s Penitentiary, out of a 680-day sentence for charges of identity theft, fraud and breaching court orders.
Joseph Kalombo Ndonki, 46, got a much lighter sentence, with 90 days left in custody of a total 360-day prison term.
Mpumudjie and Ndonki have been behind bars since February, when they were arrested with 26-year-old Yenga-Yenga and 23-year-old Gustave Ngandu Kalombo in connection with a scheme that saw the personal information of about 20 people from different provinces used to create fake driver’s licences, social insurance cards and citizenship cards. The cards, some of which bore the photos of Mpumudjie and Ndonki, had been used to open bank accounts and gain credit cards, apply for funds, open cellphone contracts and buy at least one airline ticket.
Ndonki had been caught trying to use one of the fake IDs to buy a cellphone from a Bell Aliant store in St. John’s.
The two men pleaded guilty to the charges.
“While I have received submissions that suggest that this group of offenders was clumsy and unsophisticated, the facts disclose a minimum of 17 victims, with others likely to be victimized, based on a search of Mr. Kalombo’s computer,” Walsh said.
While Ndonki was a “loyal foot soldier” to the operation, Mpumudjie was the frontman and had a more hands-on role, the judge explained.
Mpumudjie also has convictions in other provinces for similar crimes, and was wanted on warrants in Alberta and Saskatchewan for related charges at the time he was arrested in St. John’s.
“To me, he has not been deterred by previous sentences,” Walsh said.
Mpumudjie’s lawyer had argued for a six-month jail term, saying anything higher than that could see his client deported back to his native Democratic Republic of Congo under Canadian immigration law.
Walsh, who noted Mpumudjie’s prior convictions had already led immigration authorities to seek an admissibility hearing for him, said a six-month sentence was well below the accepted range for the crimes based on previous cases across the country.
When it came to Ndonki, who is a Canadian citizen and doesn’t face the same immigration consequences, Walsh noted his lack of criminal record and letters submitted to the court from a prison psychologist, who spoke of Ndonki’s genuine regret and desire to rehabilitate. As a former bank employee, however, Ndonki should have known better, the judge said.
“I find his naïveté difficult to accept,” Walsh said. “The accused appears to be quite intelligent and knew the severity of the acts he was being asked to perform.”
Lawyers for Yenga-Yenga and Kalombo, who have not yet entered pleas, requested a postponement when their cases were called in court Wednesday. Their matters will be called again Sept. 27.
Mpumudjie has an unrelated charge – of threatening a correctional officer at HMP – still before the court. He has pleaded not guilty and will go to trial.