New charges have been laid on four men allegedly involved with the kidnapping of a Penticton man in May.
RCMP previously told the Western News that a 37 year old Penticton man was kidnapped and seriously assaulted in the early morning hours of May 21. The victim was found in a ditch by a motorist on Shingle Creek Road with a broken leg and restraints on his hands.
The suspects were identified as John Szanto, Kerry Ellis and Albert Fontaine. The trio were arrested and charged with kidnapping, unlawful confinement or imprisonment and aggravated assault. Szanto was arrested May 21, Ellis was arrested in Summerland on May 22 and Fontaine was arrested by the Abbotsford Police Emergency Response Team on July 1 in Abbotsford.
A warrant was issued on Aug. 26, with the additional charge of choking, for Carey Anderson. Anderson was arrested in Osoyoos on Aug. 28. Another male was arrested and released without charges pending further investigation, the RCMP said in a release.
RCMP Cpl. Dave Tyreman said the information on the men charged was “strategically released” nearly three weeks after the latest arrest, and nearly five months after the alleged incident, “to protect the integrity of the investigation.”
Szanto was sentenced in a different incident to three years in federal prison for robbery and kidnapping in 2010. Along with two others who were found guilty, Szanto was involved with forcing a Summerland man standing in the parking lot of the Penticton 24/7 convenience store into a vehicle then obtaining the victims debit card PIN number by threatening him and taking a total of $530 in the form of cash in his wallet, at an ATM and a gift card.
During the trial, the victim testified he was told by the trio of men that they would “set him on fire” if he did not provide his PIN number. After withdrawing $400 out of the account, the men drove the victim to the top of Carmi Road pulled him out of the car and kicked, punched and threatened him. Crown counsel said there was also talk of killing the victim because the attackers were worried he would contact RCMP. The victim eventually broke free from his kidnappers down an embankment while the trio of men threw rocks at him, one hitting him in the back. Soaked in blood, the victim eventually found safety at a nearby house where the residents called police.
Szanto was also sentenced to eight months in an incident where RCMP Drug Task Force members found marijuana in his residence.
Penticton defence lawyer Robert Maxwell was representing Szanto prior to the new charges being laid. He told the Western News because the four suspects are co-accused he is unable to represent Szanto due to a conflict of interest with former clients.
“I’m withdrawing as council due to a conflict that Mr. Szanto is aware of,” Maxwell told the court. “The Crown has joined him along with the others, everybody else on that file was a client of mine.”
Maxwell said co-accused Ellis has elected to be tried before a Provincial Court judge, however if any of the co-accused elect a Supreme Court judge, or trial by jury, the others will be required to follow suit.
Fontaine is being represented by Penticton lawyer Norman Yates and Anderson has retained Kamloops lawyer Jeremy Jensen. The four co-accused will return to court via video on Sept. 30
The Penticton RCMP is asking for the public’s assistance in providing any additional unreported information about the event. Those with information can call CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.