Scams and shams — May 2016

A couple has been convicted after teaching tax evasion techniques in a British Columbia school, while a 38-year-old stole a million dollars from cable company HBO.


Not the toys they were looking for

They didn't see his identification, but at least 16 hopeful buyers of limited edition Star Wars Lego sets handed over US$14,000 to a Colorado man, who claimed to be selling the toys online. William Murray, 49, took the buyers’ money, stopped communications and never sent them the Legos, say police, who arrested Murray on suspicion of computer crimes, theft and fraud. While it isn’t clear which Star Wars Lego sets Murray was allegedly advertising for sale, they may have included the Ultimate Collectors Star Wars Millennium Falcon or Lego Star Wars Death Star II, which we found on Amazon for $8,245 and $5,628.95, respectively.


Divorcee's "depression" fuelled fraud

Hong Kong shopping 

A county accountant in China’s Yunnan province pleaded guilty to defrauding local governments out of 6.8 million yuan ($13.6 million) over two years ending in March 2015. Duan Hongyun forged her bosses’ signatures on bogus cash vouchers and spent the stolen funds on cosmetic surgery, clothes, luxury items and a home. She says her divorce made her depressed, which led to the fraud. At press time she was still awaiting sentencing.


Tax evasion educators convicted twice

A BC couple found guilty in 2012 of operating a school that taught income-tax-cheating techniques has been convicted a second time. Russell Anthony Porisky and Elaine Gould of Chilliwack counselled more than 800 students on how to evade the taxman, resulting in an estimated $11 million in lost tax revenue. The duo appealed their convictions and in 2014 the BC Court of Appeal ordered a new trial. Now the BC Supreme Court has convicted them again. At press time they were awaiting sentencing.


Woman stole $1M from cable company

While it's not uncommon for viewers to illegally obtain premium TV content, Jennifer Choi took a more direct approach to defrauding the cable network where she worked for 10 years. The 38-year-old talent relations manager for HBO in Los Angeles submitted hundreds of fake invoices for style and makeup services supposedly provided to actors, and had the funds — about US$940,000 — paid into her own bank account. Choi pleaded guilty to wire fraud and tax evasion and is facing up to 45 years in jail.


RBC taken for $8.5M

The books weren't just cooked, they were “charbroiled,” prosecutors say in what may be the largest fraud case in Nova Scotia history. Gregory Paul Burden, 66, of Port Williams, NS, pleaded guilty to falsifying his investment company’s financial records so as to have enough collateral to borrow $8.5 million from the Royal Bank. He was sentenced to four years in jail and $3.4 million in restitution.