Con artist Michelle Drake found guilty of fraud, but doesn’t spend much time in jail
On February 2, 2005, Sherie was home with her young daughter when Michelle stopped by and asked her to cash her godson’s $2,000 check. Sherie didn’t have a car to go to the bank; it was being inspected. Michelle told Sherie to drive her car, which was actually Andre’s car, and she would babysit while Sherie was out.
As Sherie backed Andre’s car out of the yard, she hit a snow bank. When she got into town, Sherie parked and walked around to look at the back of the car. “I was thinking, ‘If I dented the car, he’s going to kill her,'” Sherie says.
Suddenly, she was confronted.
“Somehow I managed to get past him and walked away,” Sherie says. “He yelled, ‘She’s dead and you’re dead. Give me my f**king car keys.'”
Sherie called 911 on her cell phone. “I was so upset I couldn’t talk,” she says. “I was terrified that he was going to my house.” She told the police to send a car to her house, because Andre was going to kill Michelle.
Andre did not go to Sherie’s house. When the police took Sherie home, Michelle was fine, and concerned about her. “Are you okay? Did he hurt you?” Michelle asked, according to Sherie.
Sherie was hysterical, crying. “You’ve got to get away from him,” she said to Michelle.
The police talked to Michelle about places where she could go. They also arrested Andre and took him to the police station. (Andre admits yelling at Sherie but claims he never touched her, and charges were later dropped.)
Michelle Drake gets away
Michelle said she would go to her mother’s home in Mulgrave, according to Sherie. But she still didn’t have any money, and asked if Sherie could go back to the bank and cash the check. Then Michelle insisted on returning to her apartment.
Later that day, Michelle arrived back at Sherie’s house in a taxi, dropped off her two cats, and left. “I remember thinking that I’ll never see her again,” Sherie says.
That night, at 1 a.m., the police were banging on Sherie’s door—looking for Michelle. “I thought Andre had done something to her,” Sherie says.
When Michelle called the next day, Sherie was relieved to hear from her, and told her that the police had come looking for her.
Michelle continued to call for a few days. Then Michelle left Sherie an message about her credit card at Cleve’s Sporting Goods.
Sherie thought the message was odd—she never shopped at that store, so why would she have a card for it? To her surprise, Sherie found out she did indeed have one, and it had a balance of nearly $1,000. But the address on the account wasn’t hers—it was Michelle’s address.
Shocked, Sherie called the police and talked to Jenene Cole in the Fraud Division. The officer told Sherie that she was the victim of identity theft. Credit cards in Sherie’s name, her birth certificate and social insurance card had already been turned in.
Sherie found out that Michelle had applied for at least 29 credit cards in her name. Ten to 15 cards were issued.
It also turned out that Michelle was never pregnant and never delivered stillborn babies. Sherie said a nurse at the Isaac Walton Killam Children’s Hospital had never heard of Michelle.
Sherie learned that other parts of Michelle’s story were total fabrications. Andre and Michelle had recently met on a chat line, dated, and broken up. When Michelle announced that she was pregnant, Andre did his best to prepare for his new family. He had not left Michelle, and he was not abusive. His parents threw a baby shower for her.
Michelle had cleaned out the apartment which she shared with Andre and left town. Then Andre discovered a document indicating that it was impossible for Michelle to get pregnant.
Her name wasn’t even Michelle Burt. It was Michelle Drake, and the police were looking for her.
Michelle Drake was a convincing con artist. “She spun this whole story,” Sherie says. “None of the details were wrong from my experience. She never made errors, and never went back on what she said. She would come in later and add things to the story.”
But it was all a lie. And all the money that Sherie and her relatives had given Michelle for merchandise was gone.
Con artist in court
More than a year later, on March 9, 2006, Michelle Drake stood in the Dartmouth provincial court. She pleaded guilty to more than two dozen charges of fraud, theft and credit card fraud.
She defrauded Sherie Nash, Andre Gerrard, and Andre Gerrard’s parents, Kathy and Ted. According to newspaper accounts, she also stayed for weeks at a Dartmouth bed and breakfast, left much of the bill unpaid, and ran up $25,000 on credit cards she applied for in the owners’ names.
Sherie believes Michelle defrauded even more victims who have yet to come forward.
Sherie read a victim impact statement in court. She said, in part:
When the whole “story” became clear to me—I was completely blown away. It was like a form of grief. I was shocked, outraged, deeply saddened, eventually became accepting, and later found some peace. But like any other “death” it has changed me and I will never forget.
The worst part was having to call the people who I loved and tell them, “I’m sorry, your money is gone. I know you trusted me, and I was wrong.” It was sickening. Then during that time and since, having my own integrity questioned over and over. Being investigated, looked at, questioned again, never really accused but continually scrutinized. I FELT guilty and I KNEW the truth.
I was so angry at all I had given to this person. How much emotion I had poured out and into the “lies” she told. Grieved with her, cried with her, prayed for her, cared for her. I even invited her to live with my children and me. Welcomed her in to our lives, all to be made a fool.
Michelle apologized profusely in court. “She stood up and was bawling,” Sherie said. “She turned around, looked me in the eye and said I was the best friend she ever had.”
Sentenced to 28 months
At the time of the trial, Michelle was already incarcerated. The previous October, she was convicted of stealing her brother’s identity and using it to run up $24,000 in credit card charges. Michelle was sentenced to two years in prison for that offense.
For the case in Dartmouth, the Crown attorney and Drake’s defense lawyer both recommended a 28-month prison term, according to news reports. It was up to Judge Alanna Murphy to accept or reject the recommendation. Judge Murphy presented her views at the sentencing. She said, in part:
The facts surrounding most of these offenses before the court are in my view extremely disturbing. They read like a plot for a bad movie of the week. Ms. Drake manufactured multiple personas for herself to engender sympathy and trust in those she befriended. The entirety of the story behind these offenses presents a cautionary tale to those who make friends on chat lines, those who invest their money in questionable schemes, and unfortunately to those generous souls who open their homes and hearts to people with a hard luck story. It is a tale of deceit, betrayal and greed.
She claimed to be pregnant with triplets, which caused the Gerrard family to love these children, hoping and looking forward to their birth. She created these children as part of her scheme, but these children were as real to the Gerrards as any flesh and blood children could be · Ms. Drake had to know that at some point in time she was going to have to cause these children die in the eyes of the Gerrards. To kill them off in a diabolical play that she was living. And she waited to do this until just before the due date when their hopes and disappointment would be the greatest. Their pain was as real as if the children were real. The heartlessness and callousness of these claims defies understanding and it multiplies when one realizes that she used the Gerrards’ feelings to extract thousands of dollars from them for a lawsuit which proved to be false.
She claimed an abusive relationship to gain Ms. Nash’s sympathy and support · Never, with all of her victims did she tell the truth about who she was, or indeed what her own identity was. She took on these numerous identities to perpetrate these many crimes. In my view there was no evidence of any conscience in these acts, and although Ms. Drake claims to have cared for these people, I cannot accept that she had any actual concept of what it is to care.
Judge Murphy sentenced Michelle to 28 months in prison, to be served after completing her previous incarceration, according to news reports.
Parole in July, 2006
Sherie wrote to the National Parole Board of Canada for information regarding Michelle’s release into the community. Much to her surprise, Sherie learned that as a non-violent offender, Michelle is eligible for accelerated parole.
Michelle Drake, found guilty of 60 previous fraud-related offenses, was convicted of 25 additional fraud offenses on March 9, 2006. She was sentenced to a total of four years, four months and 20 days in prison. She received day parole in July, 2006, and is eligible for full parole in April, 2007. Michelle Drake was locked up for less than a year.