RCMP investigating youth market scam in Southern Alberta town

It is believed that dozens of people, both youth and adults, paid registration fees for several so-called markets in Okotoks, which never took place after the organizer started.

Police are actively investigating a scam in which dozens of young Okotoks artisans paid for tables at markets that never took place.

Karin Nell, who has lived in the city for about a year, now has a bad taste in her mouth when it comes to local markets after spending time knitting and crocheting toys and books that she was never able to sell.

“It was a learning experience,” she said. “I have no plans to do any of the markets again.”

Nell caught the attention of the community earlier this month when she asked in a community Facebook group for contact information for the organizers of the so-called Okotoks Youth Market after the related social media pages and email addresses she had, appear to have been deleted. Her post received almost 50 comments, and many people shared similar stories.

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Nell recalled a discussion where a person claiming to be the mother of a teenage daughter had opened a market to be held at the Centennial Center after her child was unable or unable to find a place earlier in the year could afford at a larger event.

The artisan was interested in her student, who crochet keyrings and other jewelry in her spare time.

According to Nell, organizers said there would be markets in February, October and November. She was only interested in participating in the Christmas market, but her daughter wanted to try the first one.

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When her daughter fell ill, Nell eventually took her place.

“My daughter has COVID so I went to the February market by myself and everything seemed legit,” she said. “We didn’t have a lot of foot traffic so it seemed like the amount of publicity we were told wasn’t being done, or maybe it was COVID, but it was fine.”

Nell then focused on creating merchandise for the Christmas market while also hearing about other events said to be organised, including a two-day market in High River which was eventually cancelled.

Nell said at one point a group called Okotoks Local Market got involved in organizing these “events.” The event names used by the alleged scammers resembled reputable markets and businesses such as Okotoks Farmers’ Market, Local Love Co. markets and MarketSquare.

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Approximately 40 to 60 vendors are believed to have signed up for each event, with a mix of vendors for both youth and adults.

Although the registration fee was only $25, Nell said it was unfortunate that an event originally marketed to young people was used as a quick buck.

“It hurts that someone would do that, especially since it’s aimed at teenagers, who mostly don’t have a lot of money,” she said.

Luckily, a local business owner took all of Nell’s daughter’s inventory to sell at his shop, and Nell has taken to making Christmas gifts for her friends and family.

RCMP has confirmed that this incident is being actively investigated. Individuals can report matters to the Okotoks Division at 403-995-6400.

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