Scams and shams – November 2016

Hollywood director David Frankel is suing a large independent film distributor for fraud, while an Ontario man has been charged for allegedly selling bogus tickets to the Tragically Hip’s final concert.


Weinstein Co. named in fraud suit over Corden flick

Hollywood director David Frankel, whose films include The Devil Wears Prada and Marley and Me, is suing The Weinstein Co. for fraud. The US$4.8-million suit claims the independent film distributor had no intention of releasing his film One Chance, starring James Corden, in the US — despite allegedly promising a wide release on 800 US screens. The biopic, which tells the story of UK opera singer Paul Potts’ rise to fame on reality show Britain’s Got Talent, debuted at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival and earned US$10.8 million at the foreign box office. Ticket sales in the US, however, where the film was shown on only 43 screens, totalled just US$100,000.


Scammer took advantage of Tragically Hip fans

Gord Downie performing

It was the hottest concert of the summer — even the prime minister was there — and seats were hard to come by. Now a 31-year-old man from Woolwich, Ont., has been charged with fraud for allegedly selling bogus tickets online to the Tragically Hip’s final concert in Kingston. The August show was the last stop on the Hip’s 15-city final tour, following lead singer Gord Downie’s announcement that he has terminal brain cancer.


Fake diplomat’s $30K con

A Brampton, Ont. man is facing fraud charges for swindling a woman out of $30,000 in a romance scam with a twist. Taiwo Gbolade used a fake online identity to gain the affections of the Vaughan, Ont., woman, who “loaned” him thousands of dollars. When he offered to pay her back, he arranged for her to meet his “associate” at the airport, but it was really Gbolade posing as an English diplomat. He asked for additional payments to get the funds released from customs, later presented her with a suitcase full of cash painted black (allegedly to sneak it through customs) and asked for more money to get the bills cleaned. Police say there could be other victims of the scam.


Exec inflated firm income

The former CFO of American Realty Capital Properties Inc., Brian Block, has been charged with making false filings with the US SEC. Block and former chief accounting officer Lisa McAlister, who pleaded guilty in June, are accused of overstating the real estate investment trust’s income by more than US$12 million in 2014. If convicted, Block could face 20 years in prison.


Wine buyers lost millions

John E. Fox, 66, pleaded guilty to a US$45-million fraud that cheated thousands of Chicago-area oenophiles. Fox operated wine retailer Premier Cru in Berkeley, Calif., selling customers “wine futures” — essentially advanced discounted sales on what are expected to be rare wines. But he never delivered the wine, and instead spent the money on cars, women and golf. Fox will be sentenced next month.