Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Calvin Barry

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I need help, exchange bandit says

October 13, 2009


Kevin John Pinto, seen in a courtroom sketch on Sept. 16, 2009, would ask about the American exchange rate before demanding money from bank tellers.

The bank thief known as the "exchange bandit" told a sentencing hearing Tuesday he was "truly sorry" for the series of robberies he committed over a six-year period, and that he is determined to use his time in prison to seek treatment for the gambling addiction that fuelled his crimes.

"I look forward to spending this time working on myself," said Kevin John Pinto, dressed in a dark, pinstriped suit with blue, canvas sneakers.

Pinto, 38, a former financial compliance officer with investment firm Paradigm Capital, pleaded guilty last month to 10 counts of robbery. He turned himself in last October after the Canadian Bankers Association posted a $10,000 reward for his capture and Toronto police released surveillance video of the so-called "exchange bandit." Pinto acquired the nickname because he would first ask the teller about the rate of the American dollar before producing a holdup note.

Pinto's compulsive gambling addiction maxed out his credit cards and left him more than $100,000 in debt, according to his lawyer, Calvin Barry.

At Tuesday's sentencing hearing, Barry said he and Crown prosecutor Louise MacNaughton were "very close" to a joint submission for an appropriate penalty.

Barry is seeking a five-year prison sentence, including two-for-one credit for the one year and 11 days Pinto has served in pre-trial custody. MacNaughton argued for five years, plus pre-trial custody.

Barry noted Pinto's "stellar" employment record, "genuine remorse," lack of previous criminal record and willingness to seek treatment for his gambling addiction as mitigating factors in his sentencing. He also read excerpts from letters of support from Pinto's family.

"He was doing the right thing, but for this sickness," Barry said, referring to Pinto's addiction.

MacNaughton argued that the seriousness of Pinto's crimes merit a tougher sentence.

"While he does have a gambling addiction, he is indeed a master manipulator."

Pinto's first heist was on Jan. 2, 2002, in Mississauga where he walked out with $4,500 stuffed in an envelope. He later ripped off banks in Brampton, Kitchener, Cambridge, Oakville and downtown Toronto.

The amounts ranged from $255 to $9,600, adding up to over $33,000.

His modus operandi never changed: Pinto, who never wore a mask, presented a holdup note to the teller that sometimes said he had a gun and warned: "Don't do anything stupid."

The judge postponed her decision until Oct. 19 at 10 a.m.