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Truro lotto winner swindled out of van and trailer compensated, just not by swindler

A legal dispute between a Truro lottery winner and a convicted fraudster “would rival a Hollywood blockbuster,” says a small claims court adjudictor.

John Lynds — who won $1 million in a February 2015 Lotto 6/49 draw — invested the money in several Truro properties, adjudicator Shelly A. Martin said in a written decision released Thursday.

One of his tenants, Michael Upton, was renting one of those properties on Pictou Road to run a shed-building business. Upton approached Lynds expressing a desire to have a truck and gutter machine to rent so he could expand his business, said the decision, dated Aug. 6.

Lynds later bought a 2010 Ford Econoline van and a 2013 Arisin Utility Trailer and rented them to Upton for $1,000 a month.

“The events that unfolded in the years that followed, as relayed to the court by the parties to this case, would rival a Hollywood blockbuster,” Martin said.

“It is worth mentioning that Mr. Upton, the rogue of this story, is now serving federal time for 14 counts of fraud.”

In the following months, whenever Lynds asked Upton about the whereabouts of the trailer, he was told it was “on a job.”

“Mr. Lynds eventually began to feel that something was amiss,” Martin said. “After Mr. Upton failed to pay for the lease, he was shortly thereafter charged with stealing lumber and faced other criminal charges for fraud.”

Lynds testified he registered the van and trailer as stolen.

“Approached by one of Mr. Upton’s former workers, Mr. Lynds then learned his trailer and van were in the possession of Terry Bogle, who had some time previous bought them from Michael Upton.”

When Lynds approached Bogle months later, the van was in the yard, but the trailer had already been sold.

“In court, Mr. Lynds questioned how Mr. Bogle could purchase a vehicle and trailer without papers, to which Mr. Bogle responded that Mr. Upton had provided signed registration papers. Mr. Lynds testified that he did not sign such papers and is unsure how Mr. Upton would have acquired them.”

Bogle “who described himself as honest but someone who ‘likes to wheel and deal’ purchased Mr. Lynds’ vehicles from Mr. Upton,” said the adjudicator.

Lynds went to the RCMP, who told him to pursue a civil action.

Lynds and Bogle tried unsuccessfully to negotiate a settlement.

“Mr. Bogle has admitted to still being in possession of the van, though he testified that the trailer was sold some time ago,” Martin said. “When queried, he could not recall the name of the party who purchased the trailer from him.”

Lynds wants his van back and compensation for the trailer.

“The question for this court is who bears the loss when a rogue steals something and then purports to sell title to it in good faith to an innocent purchaser without any notice? Should the innocent party, the original owner, suffer the loss, or should the loss be borne by the innocent purchaser without notice?”

The law says someone who buys stolen goods, even if they don’t know they’re stolen, must give them back, said the adjudicator. If they sell the stolen goods again, they’re “liable in monetary damages to the true owner.”

“This is not to say that Mr. Bogle is a thief,” Martin said. “He is, in the eyes of the law, an innocent purchaser and I believe Mr. Bogle and Mr. Lynds to both be honest men.

“Although Mr. Lynds was flummoxed about why Mr. Bogle would purchase vehicles in this way, knowing Mr. Upton’s character, I am also mindful of the fact that both parties have testified that Mr. Upton was capable of ‘making everything sound too good.’ Hindsight offers considerable perspective on these dealings, and I believe that Mr. Bogle felt he was purchasing a vehicle legitimately.”

The arbitrator ordered Bogle to pay Lynds the $8,000 he got for the trailer and return the van.

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