Scams and shams — June/July 2016

A priest is being investigated for allegedly gambling away $500,000 of refugee sponsorship funds, while a French surrogate mother has been given a jail sentence after selling the same baby to two separate couples — twice.


Fake Pharrell promoter not so happy now

On separate occasions, he claimed to be a business owner, an army sergeant in Afghanistan and a concert promoter. But Sigismond Segbefia, 29, a native of Ghana residing in Silver Spring, Md., was none of the above — and is now serving two years in a US prison for fraud. Segbefia cheated eight US women out of more than US$800,000 through online dating scams and another US$375,000 from South Korean steel company Dosko Co. by falsely claiming he could help book a Pharrell concert. Segbefia, who pleaded guilty, must pay US$1.2 million in restitution and will be deported following his prison term.


Priest allegedly gambled away refugees' money

Roulette wheel

Father Amer Saka, a priest at St. Joseph’s Chaldean Catholic Church in London, Ont., is being investigated by police in connection to the disappearance of $500,000 donated by parishioners to sponsor Iraqi refugees. Saka was suspended by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Hamilton after he reportedly told his bishop that he gambled away the funds, which were earmarked for the resettlement of dozens of refugees who have been approved to come to Canada. At press time, police were not releasing details about the investigation and no charges had been laid.


Arrests in $1.6M tax fraud

The Sûreté du Québec has arrested four people in an alleged tax-fraud investigation. The case involves job-placement agencies that sent people to work at fast-food restaurants between November 2013 and March 2015. The agencies did not declare their earnings from the restaurants, cashing the payments at cheque-cashing services. The agencies then paid the restaurant workers under the table, allowing them to continue collecting unemployment benefits. The group allegedly made $1.6 million in the scheme. The case is scheduled to return to court in June.


Surrogacy scam sentence

A surrogate mother in France who sold the same baby to two separate couples — twice — has been given a one-year suspended jail sentence. While surrogacy is illegal in France, the woman (known only as “Aurore”) signed a contract in 2010 to carry a child for a gay couple for €15,000 (about $21,600). When she delivered the baby, she told them it had been stillborn, but in reality she sold the infant to another gay couple for €10,000. She did the same again in 2012 with two other couples.


"Disabled" panhandler pleads guilty to fraud

Gary Hank Thompson, 33, of Bowling Green, Ky., pretended to be mentally disabled to get more than US$100,000 in Social Security benefits from 2009 to 2013 and earn up to US$100,000 a year panhandling. Thompson pleaded guilty in March to making false statements and representations to the Social Security Administration, and faces up to 27 months in jail when sentenced in June.