THUNDER BAY — The five Thunder Bay accused in the Norval Morrisseau fraud ring made their first court appearance on Friday and some charges are expected to be withdrawn next month.
Gary Lamont, 61; David Voss, 51; Diane Champagne, 63; Linda Tkachyk, 59; and Benjamin Morrisseau, 53, all appeared in a Thunder Bay Courtroom on Friday.
All accused with the exception of Lamont, who is in custody at the Thunder Bay District Jail on separate charges, appeared in person. Only Lamont is in custody at this time.
Voss is facing charges of forgery, uttering forged document, defraud the public over $5,000, three counts of fraud over $5,000, commission of offence for criminal organization, and instructing commission of offence for criminal organization.
Champagne, Lamont, and Tkachyk are all charged with forgery, uttering forged document, defraud the public over $5,000, and commission of offence for criminal organization.
Morrisseau is charged with forgery and participation in criminal organization.
Jeffrey Cowan, 47, of Niagara-on-the-Lake, James White, 81, of Essa Township, and David Bremner, 75, of Locust Hill are also facing numerous fraud charges and will appear in court in their respective communities.
Lamont was arrested last year on charges of sexual assault and has previously pleaded guilty to five counts of sexual assault from incidents that took place between 1993 and 2007 involving male victims between the ages of 17 and 24 years old.
All the accused were arrested as part of three-year investigation conducted by the Thunder Bay Police Service and the Ontario Provincial Police into forged works purported to be done by prominent Indigenous artist, Norval Morrisseau.
According to police, more than 1,000 forged works were seized and it is believed between 4,500 and 6,000 fake works were created, making it one of the largest art frauds in history.
During the brief court appearance for the Thunder Bay accused on Friday, the Crown informed the court that, in an effort to streamline the proceedings, the charges relating to criminal organization will be withdrawn at a court appearance in April.
According to the Crown, the criminal organization allegations are covered by other charges and it is not in the public interest to pursue.
The five accused with make another brief court appearance on Monday.