A Sarnia man tricked police into investigating his brother-in-law after being pulled over for some dodgy highway driving.
But that lie quickly backfired when police decided to visit the innocent brother-in-law, who was still recuperating from a life-saving kidney transplant.
Jason Tulloch’s deception began on April 1, 2019, when provincial police were called about a black Dodge Nitro weaving across Highway 402 as it approached Sarnia. Officers found the SUV – registered to a London woman – and pulled the driver over on the Airport Road exit ramp.
The officers asked the driver, who police later learned was Tulloch, for his driver’s licence, ownership and insurance cards. The driver, though, told police he forgot his wallet at home and couldn’t find the documents in the vehicle, saying he borrowed the Nitro from a friend to pick up his daughter.
He told police his name was Doug and made a few phone calls to see if someone could text or email a photo of his licence. He then warned officers his appearance on the driver’s permit would look a bit different.
“He stated that his head was shaved at the time because of kidney issues and (he) is on medication,” assistant Crown attorney Aniko Coughlan said while reading the facts to the court during a sentencing hearing late last week.
Police found a photo of “Doug” – with a shaved head – in the Ministry of Transportation’s database and thought, based on the kidney claim, it might be him. The officers cautioned him about the potential fallout of lying about his identity, but Tulloch persisted, claiming mistakes, such as misspelling his last name, were due to nerves.
The officers issued two driving-related tickets, warned him about multiple other infractions and let him go. But Tulloch’s lie began to unravel after police arrived back at headquarters to file the tickets.
The address he gave belonged to a busy mall in south London. The postal code didn’t match either, coming up as a home in St. Thomas. Police then searched his supposed name online and found news stories about the transplant and a fundraiser for the Kidney Foundation of Canada.
“This picture of (him) was clearly not the person with whom police interacted during the traffic stop,” Coughlan said. “A criminal investigation ensued.”
The officers visited the real Doug’s house the next day and immediately realized he was not the motorist they stopped on the provincial highway. Something did catch their eye, though – family photos on the wall that included Tulloch.
With his real identity confirmed, police learned Tulloch’s driver’s licence was actually suspended. Lambton OPP made multiple attempts to meet with him over the ensuing weeks, but Tulloch repeatedly made excuses.
Nearly two years later, Tulloch, 47, pleaded guilty to one Criminal Code charge of intentionally misleading police and causing them to investigate an innocent person, and a Highway Traffic Act charge of driving with a suspended licence.
Coughlan said Tulloch “willfully” obstructed police and perpetuated the lie for quite some time.
“At no point did Mr. Tulloch want to set things right in terms of his true identity – even when he knew police were investigating this event,” she said.
After his guilty plea, Tulloch hoped the judge would cut him some slack, saying he had recently lost everything he owned in an uninsured house fire. Given what she described as “a very elaborate web of stories,” though, Justice Deborah Austin didn’t trust Tulloch’s claims.
Instead she adjourned the case for three days to provide Tulloch and his defence lawyer, David Stoesser, time to obtain proof of the fire and Tulloch’s claims of financial hardship.
When the sides reconvened this past Friday in a Sarnia courtroom, lawyers on both sides confirmed the fire and Tulloch’s government-assisted income. The judge gave Tulloch a bit of a discount on his fine for the “elaborate lie” that implicated an innocent family member.
Austin imposed a one-year suspended sentence and probation – including 24 hours of community service – for the criminal conviction and a $1,200 fine for the driving violation.
Multiple other charges were withdrawn.