Scams and shams — January/February 2015

A Spanish court has upheld tax fraud charges against Princess Cristina of Spain.


Spain’s Princess Cristina faces two counts of tax fraud

Apparently, even royalty cannot escape the taxman. A Spanish court has upheld tax fraud charges against King Felipe VI’s sister, Cristina de Borbon, who was appealing the charges. The High Court of Palma de Mallorca, however, did drop charges of money laundering against the princess in a 2011 case involving the business dealings of her husband, Inaki Urdangarin, a former Olympic handball player. He is accused of embezzling €6 million ($8.4 million) in public funds. The couple have denied any wrongdoing. The trial is expected to take place in 2016.


Charity’s finance exec jailed

Yolande Knight, 50, used her position as financial director to fleece a charity providing housing and support to developmentally challenged people 

A woman who stole $1 million from the Ottawa charity where she worked has been sentenced to four years in prison. Yolande Knight, 50, pleaded guilty to the fraud in which she used her position as financial director to fleece Total Communications Environment, a charity that provides housing and support to developmentally challenged people, over a seven-year period. She spent the money on everything from groceries and dry cleaning to furnishing and decorating her home. She also sent more than $60,000 to Haiti to fund the political career of her boyfriend, who was running for president. In addition to the sentence, she must pay $200,000 in restitution.


Fund manager loses Hummer, home

A New York investment fund manager has pleaded guilty to securities fraud for operating a US$17.9-million Ponzi scheme. Between January 2000 and June 2009, at least 74 investors gave James Peister, 62, millions of dollars that he promised to invest in stocks, futures and fixed income instruments. Instead he used new investors’ money to pay out existing ones and to finance his Hummer and residence in St. James, NY. He provided bogus financial statements to keep investors and auditors in the dark, but the sham fell apart when the economy went bust in 2008. Peister, who will forfeit US$17.9 million in assets and pay his victims US$9.6 million in restitution, faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of US$5 million. He will be sentenced in March.


“Audacious” US tax scam puts Canadian behind bars

A Brampton, Ont., man will spend nine years in a US prison for bilking Uncle Sam out of US$14 million. Franzie Colaco and others promoted a tax-fraud scheme known as 1099 OID, in which tax filers claim refunds equal to their personal debt. About two-thirds of the phoney claims came from Canadians and the Internal Revenue Service did not detect the fraud until it had already paid out millions. “It is unfathomable that Colaco and his co-conspirators concocted a scheme wherein their followers could extract hundreds of millions of taxpayer funds, especially when many of their adherents were not even citizens of this country and had never paid a dime of income tax,” says Teri Alexander, special agent in charge of IRS criminal investigation.