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Nigerian 419er ran scam from Toronto jail

- April Lindgren

(Thursday, December16, 2004)

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[ The Nigerian, who has also been convicted of bigamy and credit-card fraud and described by the Ontario Human Rights Commission as a sexual predator, hired employees for his scam by advertising for help on a Government of Canada Web site. ]

A Nigerian con man serving time for sexual assault has been running a scam out of the Don jail in Toronto that involves recruiting unwitting women on the outside and taking advantage of lax security on the inside, Global News Toronto reported yesterday. The man, who has also been convicted of bigamy and credit-card fraud and described by the Ontario Human Rights Commission as a sexual predator, hired employees for his scam by advertising for help on a Government of Canada Web site, according to the report by Global Defenders, the station's investigative unit. "He sounded like just the average businessman," said Kristie Suits, who applied for the position of call centre agent after seeing the job advertised on the Human Resources Development Canada Web site. "He was very busy and that's why sometimes he would tell me he would call at a certain time, but it would be a couple of hours later."

Ms. Suits and another woman who did not want her name used in the television report said they responded to the help wanted ad and were contacted last month by the Nigerian immigrant. Although jail rules limit inmates' calls to no more than 20 minutes, they said he spoke with them on the telephone for more than an hour on several occasions, conducting interviews and then providing job training on how to use a computer database. Ontario Correctional Services Minister Monte Kwinter said corrections authorities are responsible for enforcing rules, including the amount of time prisoners spend on the telephone. "Some conversations are monitored, some aren't," Mr. Kwinter said in an interview with Global. "You have to understand that there are privacy considerations, notwithstanding you are in jail. People have rights to do certain things."

Mr. Kwinter refused to comment directly on the situation but acknowledged that, "I have heard of these things and the person responsible in the ministry is looking into them." The unnamed woman, who was promised $13 an hour for her work, said, "I thought it was a real job because it was on that [federal] site." She said that before she realized she was being scammed, she had bought a fax machine and spent hours sending faxes and calling companies in the United States demanding that they pay $500 to $1,000 for advertising on a Web site called Patrons Online, a listing of companies throughout the United States. She was never paid for her expenses or her work. "He had a Fed Ex number where he told me, 'Tell them to send the cheque to the Fed Ex number, it will be quicker,' " said the woman. She said she started having doubts about her new career when someone at one firm she contacted warned she was being asked to collect money for Web services that had never been purchased.

Both women had also followed the man's instructions to fax a void cheque, their social insurance numbers and other identification to the law firm that represented him at the time. A law firm employee subsequently contacted them to warn that he was incarcerated and that they were being caught up in a scam. The man was convicted of sexual assault in February, 2004, and sentenced to 11 1/2 months in the Don jail. Soon after that, he was ordered deported but that order cannot be executed until he serves his jail time and the courts deal with other outstanding charges against him.

The Global report said the man came to Canada on a false passport in 1999 claiming he was fleeing persecution in Botswana because he is gay. Since his arrival in Canada, he has been convicted on two counts of bigamy and, according to news reports, been found guilty of six fraud charges related to credit cards and received a conditional discharge for a second assault. He is scheduled to go to trial in March on another charge of sexual assault.

The man has also been described as a "sexual predator" by the Ontario Human Rights Commission and ordered to pay $50,000 in compensation to five women who complained they either were not hired or were fired for rejecting his sexual advances. "The tribunal finds that he is a sexual predator who uses employment centres of various types to facilitate his discriminatory conduct," the rights tribunal concluded in an October, 2003, decision.

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