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Penticton man faces at least six months for exploiting teen

Benny Wolfe has pleaded guilty to obtaining sexual services of a person under 18. - Western News file photo
Benny Wolfe has pleaded guilty to obtaining sexual services of a person under 18.
— image credit: Western News file photo

A Penticton man who pled guilty to paying a teenage girl for sex told RCMP his biggest regret was not confirming her age.

Benny Brian Wolfe was in court on Monday to be sentenced for obtaining sexual services of a person under 18, when he hired a 17-year-old girl who was being pimped by her step-father. Wolfe faces a mandatory minimum sentence of six months, but will not find out if he will be seeing more time than that behind bars until Jan. 31 when the judge will return with her decision. The stepfather, who cannot be named to protect the teen’s identity, was found guilty of a number of charges and will be sentenced in April.

Wolfe told RCMP he had a suspicion the female was only 16 or 17 when she indicated to him that she was only in Grade 11, but he ignored it because the stepfather told Wolfe she was of age. Wolfe admitted to police even if he knew for sure she was only 16 or 17, he wasn’t sure if he would have “backed off.”

The writer of the psychiatric assessment conducted on Wolfe said he is of low risk to re-offend. However, Crown counsel Catherine Crockett pointed out there is supporting statements showing he has a penchant for younger women. Crockett said in particular a statement from his ex-wife confirmed he was “captivated” with young women, taking photos of them, and that he “was heavily involved with young prostitutes.”

Crockett added one of her concerns when submitting the Crown’s position on sentencing and probation is that Wolfe took a “very cavalier” attitude about the situation in the beginning by approaching media to speak out about it, in one instance wearing a medallion that said “pimp daddy” on it.

She said he seems more concerned with abiding by the law and not necessarily acknowledging the fact that he was part of the exploitation of a teenage girl who was in a horrible situation where her parents were drug dealers, her stepfather sexually abused her from the age of 12 and then forced her into the sex trade. Crockett said Wolfe even joked with the teen that he would have liked to “lock in her rate of $100 for the whole year.”

Wolfe, who ran for mayor  of Penticton in 2008 and announced his intentions to run again before the charges were formally laid against him, admitted he arranged a weekly date with the stepfather for the teen to come to his apartment for sexual services and he would pay her $100 for what turned out to be 25- to 30-minute encounters.

He said this happened about eight times from May to July in 2011, until the stepfather was arrested and the girl immediately stopped prostituting. The girl relayed to Crown counsel that she was trying to put this chapter of her life behind her and that she found the men who exploited her to be “disgusting” and it made her feel “gross.”

“I regret what I have done and I want to tell the court it was a big mistake on my part for not having her age verified by identification,” said Wolfe. “Never, ever will this happen again. I learned my lesson.”

Wolfe, who doesn’t have a criminal record, said he did not run away from the charges and pled guilty early on.

“I have been a law-abiding citizen all my life, unfortunately, I stepped out of line.”

Wolfe, who has been living in the community since his arrest, indicated to the court he probably would not continue living in Penticton because he has concerns about possibly breaking any potential probation conditions of having no contact with the victim by inadvertently bumping into her in town.

With changes to the Canadian Criminal Code in 2005 putting a mandatory minimum sentence of six months on this charge, and very little case law to provide a measure of sentencing, Judge Meg Shaw said she would return on Jan. 31 to provide her decision. At that time the judge will also be providing a decision on sentencing for 56-year-old Kenneth Toovey, who was charged with obtaining sexual services of a person under 18.

Toovey pled guilty to the charge, admitting he picked up a female on July 22, 2011 and paid her $60 for oral sex. At the time undercover RCMP officers were conducting surveillance and recorded the licence plate of the vehicle Toovey was driving after he picked up the teen outside the Soupateria. Toovey told RCMP he thought she looked young but was “hoping” she was of age. It wasn’t until after the sexual service was performed and he was driving the girl back to the Soupateria that he found out she was just 17.

Rick Brian Wyatt was also charged with obtaining sexual services of a person under 18 and communicating for purpose of prostitution and has opted for a trial. He is expected back in court on Feb. 26. Baldev Toor is also standing trial for obtaining sexual services of a person under 18 and is due back in court on Jan. 28 to fix a date.

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