'Nothing but a cancer': Cop

Fri, August 20, 2004

BACK ON the 9th of August, Det.-Const. Ed Malachowski believed he would finally know what penalty the paralegal he had meticulously tracked down would pay for bilking money from the often elderly clients whose trust he later confessed he had conned. For that is when Sandy Hutchens was supposed to be sentenced by Superior Court Justice Harry LaForme, months after pleading guilty in an arranged plea to four counts of fraud and one count of trafficking in the prescription painkillers to which he had also become addicted, and almost two years from the day he was charged.

As I wrote here on the eve of that scheduled sentencing date, justice travels at its own pace, but it would finally be arriving in the coming morning.

But it never showed up.

Instead, says Malachowski, Hutchens' defence counsel excused himself and indicated to the judge that his now ex-client had changed his mind about the plea-bargain arrangement and the agreed-upon penalty, and would be seeking a new lawyer to take up his fight to withdraw his guilty pleas.

If successful, Hutchens goes back to being presumed innocent, and justice goes back to square one.

The case was put over until Sept. 22.

Hutchens, who turned 45 on Tuesday, was first introduced here in October, 2002, where police had him pegged as a fly-by-nighter who professed to be a fighter for the underdog.

They had him running a bogus storefront paralegal operation in the city's north end, papering apartments with flyers promising to fight rent hikes and landlord-tenant disputes, and boasting of his ability to arrange loans as well as broker the sale of commercial properties.


"He was nothing but a cancer," said Det.-Const. Ed Malachowski, the 32 Division fraud squad cop who busted him back then. "And he was a cancer who had to be stopped. He couldn't have cared less about his victims.

"Once he had won their trust, they were done."

Back in May, Sandy Hutchens was in the newspapers again, this time when a Toronto doctor named Ravi Devgan was acquitted by a jury of trafficking in the highly potent painkillers which wound up in Hutchens' hands -- up to 10,000 pills a week, the court was told.

Back when Det.-Const. Ed Malachowski made his arrest of Hutchens, Toronto Police believed it was significant enough to put on the major occurrence sheet, which is issued daily to media outlets across the city.

But no newspaper picked up the story, nor did any radio or television station.

Frauds just don't sell, I wrote. They lack glamour.

But, as Malachowski will attest, frauds can also ruin lives, and push victims over the financial brink -- sometimes out of their business, sometimes out of their home.

On the day after Hutchens was supposed to be sentenced, nothing appeared in any of the newspapers. He had somehow managed to either get lost in the paper shuffle, or benefit from court reporters being off on vacation.

Readers of this space were bewildered. What happened?

"I showed up in court that day expecting him to be heading to jail," said Det.-Const. Malachowski. "And then Hutchens pulls a rabbit out of the hat, tells the judge he wants to change his pleas, and the floor suddenly dropped out from under us. But his day will come -- eventually."

In the meantime, Sandy Hutchens remains free on bail until the courts decide on whether he can go back on his plea-bargain deal -- with his next appearance before a judge not scheduled until the fall equinox.