Podcasters say tip from listener led to arrest of alleged ‘romance scammer’

An alleged career con artist who is the subject of a Rogers Frequency podcast was recently arrested possibly due to a clue received on the podcast's tip line. Dilshad Burman with the victims and podcasters who have been chasing him down.

By Dilshad Burman

Alleged serial scammer Andre Marcel Vautour was recently taken into custody by York Regional Police in Vaughan. Some of the allegations against him are documented in a Rogers Frequency podcast called ‘Catch Him If You Can,’ and the creators say it was instrumental in his arrest.

The podcast, launched in 2020, is a seven-part documentary and each episode is interspersed with scripted moments, based on the information provided by numerous alleged victims.

Co-producers Dr. Emilia King and Dr. Maggie Reid say they chose the format so that listeners could “live those cons firsthand.”

“[We wanted them to] really feel what you feel like in that moment. So you can relate, so you can have some empathy,” says King.

Reid says that victims of scams are often portrayed negatively or as simpletons.

“There’s oftentimes a portrayal of victims as dumb, as easily conned and oftentimes the reaction is … people in the comments calling these women idiots … and there’s a lot of blaming the victim that goes on and not actually looking at the perpetrators of these crimes,” adds Reid.

Three episodes of the podcast are dedicated to the stories of Nova Scotia woman Andrea Speranza and B.C. women Kym Nicholson and Jodi McMullin.

“These are not women who are easily deceived. They’re professionals. [Andrea Speranza] is a fire captain in Nova Scotia, the other one is an R.N., Kym Nicholson out of B.C., and she works with remote Indigenous communities, and the other one, Jodi McMullin, is a medical auditor – so her whole thing is looking at fine details over and over again,” says King.

King says their goal with the podcast was the flip the framing of such stories “so you can understand it can happen to you.”

Taking matters into their own hands

Speranza alleges Vautour conned her out of $5,000, Nicholson says she lost $8,000 and McMullin says she was bilked out of a whopping $45,000 when each became romantically involved with him in 2018.

The podcast explains that the three women connected online and chose to take matters into their own hands because when they reported their cases to police, they were all dismissed with similar responses.

“They said, ‘well, it’s going to be, he said, she said,” says Nicholson.

“Within two days of filing that police report, I got a call back from the constable telling me that there was no evidence of fraud and my case was closed … basically just said ‘too bad, so sad,'” says McMullin.

“They said just whenever it’s considered a romance fraud you have no recourse at all, no action that you can do other than civil,” says Speranza.

While each woman maintains they only lent Vautour money, they say authorities told them if they gave it to him out of their own free will, they don’t have a case.

Refusing to settle for that explanation, the women began to investigate Vautour themselves.

“I’m a firefighter and my purpose is to go and help people on the worst days of their lives. And this guy’s going around making people’s worst day of their life,” says Speranza. “I just couldn’t stand by it. It’s against my moral values.”

Nicholson says in the early days, the search was all consuming.

“I would say I was doing 30 hours a week. I wasn’t sleeping, I was obsessed. I lived on my computer. I just felt determined,” she says.

Listen to Nicholson’s account:

In 2019, McMullin even managed to track him down in Nanaimo, B.C. and confronted him, but by the time police arrived, he was gone.

Listen to McMullin’s account: 

Over four years, the women have now identified 21 people whom they allege Vautour conned in various ways, including immigration and employment fraud, though none of the allegations have been proven in court.

To warn others about him, Speranza launched stopthemarchmadness.com, as the alias Vautour used with her was March Huber.

“The primary reason is to prevent further victimization. The next thing is to help people that are victims become survivors,” explains Speranza. “Another big part of it is the psychological aspect of it — people take it so hard on themselves … they feel it’s all their fault, but they don’t understand the con. If they understood the con they would know that this guy has been doing it for 30 years and he’s a veteran of it, and this is what he does for a living. You have no chance against it because you don’t think like this. So there’s all sorts of articles on there to help you understand that, ‘holy cow, it’s not me.'”

Listen to Speranza’s account:

The website includes an online tip line for people to share their stories or any sightings of Vautour. King and Reid have a similar web form for tips on their website catchhimpod.com.

While police are not permitted to release or confirm information that could lead to possibly identifying witnesses, the women believe the clue that led to Vautour’s October 5 arrest came from those tip lines.

“A listener listened to the final episode of the podcast … and he said ‘wow you know what, I’m in Toronto and they just entered my homeless shelter – they’re pretending to be homeless,” explains King.

She says the tip came in June and the listener told them that Vautour and an accomplice were posing as father and son. They were reportedly seeking a reference for a hotel room as many had been converted into temporary shelters during the pandemic.

King and Reid decided to chase the tip themselves and visited the community centre homeless shelter where Vautour was last seen.

“I was speaking with the person who had given us the tip and trying to wait to get a sighting of [Vautour] and he didn’t come out,” says Reid. “So I actually ended up going in and I pretended I had to use the washroom because I wanted to see his face. There weren’t a lot of people in there and I saw him in the back of the shelter. I saw his face.”

Reid says that moment was two years in the making and she was tempted to confront him.

“I’m so angry at all of the terrible things that he’s done. But I was also afraid being in this place,” she says. “What we did next was Emilia called Toronto police to say ‘we know where he is. We’ve identified him. Can you come and pick him up?”

King says while there warrants for Vautour’s arrest have been issues in Quebec and Manitoba, there are none in Ontario and police said they could do nothing.

Meanwhile, Speranza had been in touch with Quebec police, hoping they could connect with police in Toronto.

“I emailed back and forth with this one officer since June, all our information — the pictures, the police files — and they had sent the police down in Toronto to look for him a couple times, different places and weren’t successful. And then finally, the York region police and Quebec Police both emailed and called me and said, ‘we got him’.”

In a release, York Regional police said they received a tip in September that Vautour was “residing in the Vaughan area while attempting to evade police.”

“On Wednesday, October 5, 2022, officers successfully located the suspect and he was taken into custody. He will be transported to Quebec to face fraud-related charges.”

McMullin says she tuned in to Vautour’s initial hearing in Quebec on Oct. 10.

“When he went to court, that was euphoric for me. He couldn’t hear me and he couldn’t see me, but I went off on him and it felt so good — I just called him everything under the sun,” she says. “Here’s a guy who’s told so many people that he doesn’t have any kids, and all three of his kids were sitting in that courtroom and they were just disgusted with him.”

Calls for changes to the justice system

All three women say they felt vindicated when Vautour was arrested, but they remain cautious.

When she first heard of his arrest, Nicholson says she was excited, with some reservation.

“We’ve been let down so many times when we’ve had moments of being able to confront him and find him — let down by the police, the legal system and everything. So it was contained excitement,” she says.

“I felt relieved that there was some closure and some justice that’s going to come, but there’s no celebrating until the justice has arrived,” says Speranza.

Nicholson, Speranza and McMullin all feel there are several loopholes in the Canadian Justice system that allowed Vautour to evade arrest for almost 30 years.

“There’s not a collective policing across Canada. It’s interprovincial, it’s RCMP, city, OPP — and so there’s no communication, there’s no collective database that says this guy is a bad guy,” says Nicholson. “He doesn’t show up when somebody goes in and complains about him, or they see something in another jurisdiction and they say, ‘oh, well, it’s not our problem.’”

“These need to be looked at collectively as Canadian fraud, across the country,” says McMullin. “It’s not just romance fraud that [Vautour] does. He does so many other frauds — it’s just crazy the stuff that we have found out about him. It needs to be looked at Canada-wide and all his files and warrants across Canada need to be put collectively into one.”

Along with better collaboration between provincial police forces, they’re calling for a national list of those convicted of serial fraud.

“There needs to be some sort of a registry created so that people can look up potential people and see if they’re on the registry — no different than a sex offender registry,” says McMullin. “He’s been doing it for over 27 years — so he is not gonna stop. This is his profession. He has mastered the skill and this is his job. If he’s a grifter and he’s going to get off again and keep doing it … put him out there and let it be known that this is who he is and this is what he does.”

McMullin also feels there should be a law against “rape by deception.”

“There’s situations where they’ve taken stuff to court where a man pulls off a condom and doesn’t tell the lady, and that’s considered deception,” says McMullin “In my situation, I got involved with someone who I thought was wealthy, successful goal in goal-oriented, had a career, single, no children, hardworking — and he was none of that. Everything was completely false. He just portrayed himself to be what I needed at that time.”

“I would never in a million years have gotten intimately involved with someone who he really is — someone who lives off the streets when he can’t run a con, has no money, hasn’t got a job, hasn’t been a productive member of society is abusive towards people,” she continues. “So I do feel violated. I feel like something was taken from me and something that I feel is very special between two people.”

McMullin says she now struggles with trust in relationships and her mental health has suffered greatly. She’s still paying off the debt she says Vautour racked up.

“I go dark for a couple days every month — when I know I have to make that payment. It all comes back to me and it’s just like, ugh, I just worked all these extra hours just to pay his debt. One day it’ll all be over and I’ll have it all paid off and then that’ll be my closure.”

Speranza believes there should be more help for people like McMullin who are so severely impacted by such crimes.

“[There should be] a 1-800 hotline because people want to commit suicide after this. This is serious business. People are losing everything — their houses, their cars, their money and the love of their life apparently, that they feel that he is,” she says.

King and Reid echo the women’s calls for wide-ranging changes that protect victims rather than make them feel guilty for a crime committed against them.

“Why are we blaming victims? Why are we focused on what victims could do differently? Why are we not focused on the serial nature of fraud and how the criminal justice system is unwilling or incapable of actually prosecuting them so they stop doing this?” asks Reid.

“We want to see more tools to be able to pursue this kind of serial fraud,” says King, adding that what the survivors are asking for is logical and doable, if only they were taken seriously.

“There is no political will or desire to prosecute these cases even when the women have become investigators in their own cases and have brought evidence themselves. So we want people to take these crimes seriously because … when you stack all of these cases together, it’s well over a million dollars by our count and likely much more because there’s a lot of gaps in this 20-plus year timeline” says Reid.

“We’re also hoping that more victims come forward and feel confident coming forward hearing the podcast and hearing us not portray victims as dupes or as that are just dumb and portraying them negatively. We’re hearing their stories and we’re trying to give them a voice and trying to give them a platform because they’ve been dismissed by the justice system.”

Vautour remains in custody in Quebec and his bail hearing is scheduled for October 28.

Top Stories

Top Stories

Most Watched Today