Edmonton man, 38, sentenced to 4 years for having arranged sex with underaged teens

David Tom was originally charged with sex trafficking in a case involving two other people who recruited two teenagers to have money in exchange for sex.   (Cort Sloan/CBC - image credit)
David Tom was originally charged with sex trafficking in a case involving two other people who recruited two teenagers to have money in exchange for sex. (Cort Sloan/CBC - image credit)

An Edmonton man has been sentenced to four years in prison for paying for sexual services from a person under the age of 18 — a lesser offence than the sex trafficking charge he was facing two years ago.

David Tom, 38, pleaded guilty earlier this spring to obtaining sexual services for consideration after he had arranged sex with two girls, ages 16 and 17, at short-term rental accommodations in 2021.

Justice Paul Belzil accepted the four-year term after Tom's lawyer, Rod Gregory, and Crown prosecutor Dane Bullerwell gave their sentencing submissions Wednesday in Edmonton Court of King's Bench.

Belzil noted that the guilty plea spared two victims from having to testify in what would have been a difficult jury trial.

Under the Criminal Code, a conviction for obtaining sexual services from a person under 18 carries a minimum sentence of six months, and a maximum of 10 years in prison.

Tom was one of three people charged in a sex trafficking case in July 2022.

The Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT) charged Alexander Basaraba, 20 at the time, and Brooklyn Jober-Sutherland, 19 at the time, with 17 offences related to sex trafficking.

Two girls, 16 and 17, came forward and told investigators they had been recruited and forced into working in the sex industry.

Tom was charged in July 2022 with trafficking a person under the age of 18, permitting prohibited sexual activity within a household, and obtaining sexual services for consideration.

The first two charges were dropped after he pleaded guilty to obtaining sexual services for consideration.

Last April, Basaraba was sentenced to six years in prison on one count of human trafficking.

He was also sentenced to a year for his role in a drug trafficking operation in Saskatchewan.

Jober-Sutherland pleaded guilty to one count of advertising sexual services, and was given a suspended sentence with 24 months of probation.

Unaware of age, defence lawyer says

In court Wednesday, Gregory told Belzil that Tom, who was 35 at the time of the offences, didn't know how old the girls were.

Basaraba and Jober-Sutherland had recruited the girls and arranged the sex encounters at a short-term rental accommodation, according to the agreed statement of facts.

It says Tom paid for sexual services from one of the victims on several occasions between July and November 2021.

"He took no steps to ascertain her age," the agreement statement of facts says.

The statement of facts also says Tom agrees "that he was reckless as to whether she was under the age of 18 years old."

The same was written about the 17-year-old Tom paid to have sex with.

"Mr. Tom understood that Mr. Basaraba was a pimp for various sex workers," the statement says.

Bullerwell agreed that the four-year term would be appropriate and said it's important for men to take responsibility.

"The onus is on them to determine the age of their sex partners."

Gregory told the court that Tom should get credit for seeking counselling services and that he is at low risk to reoffend.

The judge said he was impressed that Tom was seeking out therapy.

"You've accepted what you did was wrong," Belzil told the court. "Not only have you said something, but you've done something."

Tom sat in the prisoner's box in court listening to submissions. With tidy short black hair, he wore glasses, a button-up mauve shirt and jeans.

After the submissions, Tom stood and read a prepared statement to the court, saying he took responsibility for his actions and his role in the "lasting trauma the victims may have endured."

Tom, who was not in custody, was taken to the remand centre.

The lawyer asked that Tom serve his sentence at the Bowden Institution, a minimum- and medium-security facility about 200 kilometres southwest of Edmonton.