Man who extorted thousands from Alberta women he met on Internet gets 12 years

EDMONTON – A man who befriended Alberta women on dating websites only to extort thousands of dollars from them has been sentenced to more than 12 years in prison after some of the victims found out about each other online and reported him to police.

Shannon Bradford Dixon, 36, pleaded guilty Friday to charges involving seven women that included extortion, fraud, bestiality, sexual assault and obstructing justice over a period of three years beginning in 2008.

“You have little respect for members of the opposite sex,” Justice Sterling Sanderman of Court of Queen’s Bench told Dixon during sentencing.

“You took money, dignity and the self-respect of these seven women.”

Court heard in an agreed statement of facts that Dixon began a number of the relationships on the dating website Plenty Of Fish and then later met them in person.

He told widowed or divorced mothers that he was a helicopter pilot, but later claimed he was a drug dealer who wanted out of the business, but needed cash to pay debts.

In some of the cases he threatened to post nude photos that he’d taken online or send them to employers.

In one case, he restrained a woman while he burned her with a lighter.

One of the victims ultimately lost more than $230,000 to Dixon.

Sanderman told Dixon that if he couldn’t con, control or intimidate women, he punished them.

“You bring no personal qualities that improve your position before the court. None. Absolutely zero.”

Dixon, a stout man with a large belly and a thinning mullet who is originally from Newfoundland, took a gulp of water after learning his fate.

Court heard that many of the relationships overlapped, and that while Dixon often promised to repay the money, he wouldn’t show up at the agreed times or had more fabricated excuses about why he needed more cash.

He drank a lot. He argued loudly on his cellphone in front of the women he was defrauding, and often the woman at the other end of the line was another of his victims.

Court heard that he came up with lies to explain the phone calls. Sometimes he told them that the other women were members of his made-up drug ring.

Eventually, some of the women posted comments about Dixon on websites. When they realized there were others like them in the same boat, they contacted police.

“Mr. Dixon exploited their vulnerability, their loneliness,” RCMP Cpl. Colette Zazulak said outside court. “It really shook their lives.”

At one point in 2010 while out on bail, Dixon violated his release conditions and took a bus to Ontario. He pleaded guilty to assaulting a woman in Kitchener whom he’d met on that bus.

Court heard he also had a lengthy criminal record for assaulting ex-spouses and girlfriends dating back to 1999. He also pleaded guilty in 2011 to assaulting a common-law spouse in Kitchener in 2007.

Six of Dixon’s seven Alberta victims were present during the sentencing Friday.

Outside court, one warned others to be wary of dating websites, noting Dixon was preying on them.

“He did a lot of damage to a lot of people. He changed a lot of people’s lives. Not just ourselves, but we have families, we have children, we have employers that had to support us through this whole process,” said the woman, who cannot be identified.

“I don’t think he even realizes the damage he has done.”

Dixon declined an opportunity to speak during the sentencing.

Sanderman said Dixon would have approximately 10 1/2 years left to serve in jail with pre-trial custody taken into consideration. He must also provide a DNA sample and be listed on a sex offender registry for 20 years.

One victim addressed the court, saying she now has trouble believing her new partner when he tells her that he loves her.

“This crime has shaken my trust in people,” she said.