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Robo-calls sleuth closes in on election-fraudster 'Pierre Poutine'

Elections Canada investigators have obtained more data to help them unmask the robo-calls fraudster who hid behind the alias "Pierre Poutine."

The election watchdog has obtained records from Rogers Communications, the Internet service provider used by an unknown political operative when he arranged misleading robo-calls to voters in Guelph, Ont., during the 2011 federal ballot.

Elections Canada recently sought a production order from an Ontario court for records from Rogers – although associated documents are currently unavailable to the public. Rogers has refused all comment on the matter.

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The election watchdog was following a lead uncovered earlier this month by RackNine, the Alberta firm caught up in the controversy after its system was used to make the robo-calls.

Weeks ago, RackNine CEO Matt Meier supplied Elections Canada with an Internet Protocol address he had determined was used by the individual who set up and arranged the Guelph robo-calls through his company's computers.

An IP address is a number given to each computer on the Internet and is similar to a postal code or telephone number.

Mr. Meier had found the IP address by searching his company's computer logs for activity by the fraudster, who called himself "Pierre Jones" when dealing with RackNine. Mr. Meier identified the IP address as coming from a Rogers account in Guelph.

Elections Canada has indicated it does not suspect RackNine officials of having any part in the fraud and the company has co-operated extensively with investigators.

The data from Rogers should help Elections Canada investigator Allan Mathews narrow his search.

It would likely yield a billing address and customer name that reveal who, or what organization, was using that IP address in late April and early May of 2011, when Pierre Jones set up the call campaign from RackNine.

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Last week, it was revealed that Pierre Poutine/Pierre Jones had toyed with a scheme to dial Guelph voters in the with a fake message from the local Liberal campaign.

This early hours call designed to turn voters against Liberal candidate Frank Valeriote was recorded but never sent, court filings showed.

This aborted call campaign had been scheduled to wake voters in the southwestern Ontario riding, a source close to Elections Canada said.

The unknown operative also set up a fake caller ID that would have shown middle-of-the-night robo-calls as coming from Mr. Valeriote's campaign office at 519-837-2651.

Liberals across a number of ridings have complained of phony calls made during the campaign at odd hours – such as late at night – claiming to represent the Liberal Party.

Mr. Valeriote held on to his Guelph seat in the May 2, 2011, election, winning by a big margin.

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According to the filings, Mr. Meier also told Elections Canada that "Pierre" initially telephoned him directly on his unlisted office extension and asked for him by name when setting up his robo-calling account.

"Pierre referred to knowing someone in the Conservative Party," Mr. Mathews said of the call Mr. Meier received at RackNine. "In Meier's view, these facts mean someone must have given Pierre his contact information."

Elections Canada has alleged in past court filings that someone connected to the local Conservative campaign in Guelph, with the help of a disposable cellphone, engineered a scheme to dial voters of rival parties and tell them, falsely, that their polling station had been changed.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Steven Chase has covered federal politics in Ottawa for The Globe since mid-2001, arriving there a few months before 9/11. He previously worked in the paper's Vancouver and Calgary bureaus. Prior to that, he reported on Alberta politics for the Calgary Herald and the Calgary Sun, and on national issues for Alberta Report. More

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