Scams and shams — January/February 2016

A 62-year-old man has been charged in the US for allegedly using Twitter to tweak stock prices, while a Sydney-based accountant gets two years in prison for his role in a $4.3-million tax evasion scheme.


Former Outremont mayor avoids jail in scandal

Stephane Harbour, who was the mayor of Outremont, Que., from 2001 to 2007, has been convicted of fraud for expensing $2,000 in fees for English classes while he was in office. He pleaded guilty to the infraction (elected officials are not reimbursed for language instruction), in which he asked a nonelected colleague to file the expense claim and give him the money. Harbour, who now works as a janitor and has paid back the funds, was sentenced to three months’ house arrest and another three months of probation.


Tweets conned investors

A 62-year-old man has been charged in the US for allegedly using social media to manipulate stock prices. James Alan Craig of Dunragit, Scotland, set up accounts on Twitter resembling those of known market research firms and used them to spread negative misinformation about publicly traded companies. He waited for the value of the shares to drop before buying them on the cheap and later sold them at an inflated price. According to the US Department of Justice, stockholders lost more than US$1.6 million as a result of the scheme.


Welfare caseworker jailed

Wesley Rampersad, a 38-year-old social services caseworker for the Ontario Region of Peel, has pleaded guilty to defrauding the government of more than $189,000 in welfare payments. Rampersad, whose role was to evaluate benefit applications, reactivated files that had previously been closed and authorized maximum payments to be deposited into seven different bank accounts — all in his name. He was sentenced to two years in prison and ordered to pay restitution.


Accountant convicted for helping client avoid tax

Raymond Clifford Osborne, a Sydney-based accountant who advised a client to hide income by moving it offshore, was sentenced to two years in jail for his role in the $4.3-million tax evasion. The sentence serves as a warning to those in a position of trust who help others avoid paying their fair share of tax, said the deputy commissioner of the Australian Taxation Office.


Nature's call led to bust

What started as a complaint to police about a public urination in Halifax ended up uncovering an ostensible credit card fraud operation. Police responded to an early morning call about a man who relieved himself on a tree, and when he got into a car they followed him. Officers seized the vehicle after two of the men in the car were arrested for breaching court orders and a third for obstructing a police officer. A subsequent investigation led to a house where police found materials allegedly used to make fake credit cards. The men, all from Quebec and in their early 20s, face multiple charges.