Scams and shams – September 2016

An Arizona lawmaker has been indicted for food-stamp fraud, while police in Waterloo, Ont., are warning the public about troubling telephone scams in the area.


Careless crooks use celeb in fake IDs

Canadian actress Laura Vandervoort helped bring down an international fraud ring without lifting a finger — a feat even her superhero alter ego would have difficulty pulling off. A forged passport with a photo of Vandervoort, who played Supergirl on the television show Smallville from 2007 to 2011, tipped off investigators to an identity theft scheme that swindled hundreds of victims out of millions of dollars. The perpetrators searched online for headshots — and obviously failed to weed out any famous faces — to create the bogus IDs, then used them to apply for credit and make fraudulent transactions. US authorities arrested Amit Chaudhry, 44, and Jacqueline Green-Morris, 40, of Virginia, as well as two unnamed suspects in Georgia.


Reality TV producer sues ex-accountant for embezzlement

The Little Couple

LMNO Productions, producer of The Little Couple, has filed a US federal lawsuit against its former accountant, Paul Ikegami, claiming he cooked the books to pocket US$1.5 million over five years. According to the suit, Ikegami also allegedly stole the doctored paperwork last year and tried to extort an additional US$800,000 from LMNO in exchange for the books’ return and a release of wrongdoing. LMNO says it reported him instead, and purports he then went to Discovery Communications — which airs six of the company’s shows — suggesting it might want to look into LMNO’s finances. When LMNO couldn’t produce the books for a surprise audit, Discovery ended its contracts with the company, the suit alleges.


Legislator arrested for welfare fund

An Arizona lawmaker who voted against a bill that would help curtail welfare cheats has been indicted for food-stamp fraud. Democratic state representative Cecilia Velasquez allegedly received US$1,726 in fraudulent benefits from 2013 to 2015 by allowing others to use her food-stamp card and falsely claiming two dependants. Velasquez, who called the charges a “political witch hunt,” pleaded not guilty but withdrew her candidacy from the 2016 election.


Phone fraudsters bring in the fuzz

Police Officer

Waterloo, Ont., area police are warning of a troubling variation on a common telephone scam. In July, a local man received a call from a supposed Immigration Canada official who said he must pay a $2,500 voucher or face arrest. The man hung up, only to find Waterloo Regional Police at his door later in the day. The officers were responding to a call they had received from a woman — obviously connected to the scam, although the police didn’t know it at the time — claiming two armed men were trying to break into the man’s house. It seems the fraudsters thought the appearance of the police would intimidate the man into paying the voucher. “This is taking a scare tactic to a whole other level,” Waterloo Regional Police spokesperson Alana Russell told the Waterloo Region Record.