Scams and shams — July/August 2017

Three Toronto men are suspected of stealing the identity of 5,000 Toronto residents, while an Olympic rower is charged with fraud.

LUXURY LIVING

Toronto trio suspected of $10M identity theft

“The absurdity of the consumption,” as Toronto Det. Const. Mike Kelly put it, is what stands out in a massive identity theft fraud affecting about 5,000 Toronto-area residents. Police allege three Toronto men used stolen credit cards and other pieces of ID to purchase a Yorkville condo and hundreds of ultra-high-end items. These include a $146,000 Romain Jerome Moon Dust watch, 90 pairs of shoes, $10,000 crocodile boots, $390,000 in designer clothing, liquor and jewelry, $10,000 in sunglasses and $2,000 in skin cream. Police don’t believe any of the items were being sold. Adedayo Ogundana, 45, and Adekunle Johnson Omitiran, 37, were arrested and a warrant has been issued for Duro Akintola, 44.

SHYSTER, NOT HEISTER

Proposed sale of stolen masterpieces was a scam

Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee by Rembrandt

Investigators thought they were about to crack one of the biggest art heists of all time, when two famous missing paintings showed up for sale on Craigslist. Vermeer’s The Concert and Rembrandt’s Storm on the Sea of Galilee, which were stolen with 12 other masterpieces from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990, were advertised online in several cities, including London and Venice, and in Egypt, for US$5 million. An FBI agent tracked down Todd Andrew Desper, 47, of Beckley, WVa, as the seller, but he didn’t have the paintings it was a bold attempt at wire fraud, for which he has been charged. Desper faces up to 20 years in jail if convicted.

UP THE CREEK

Former Olympic rower faces fraud charges

On Nov. 3, 2015, BC investment adviser Harold Backer told his wife he was going for a bike ride and vanished. Nearly 18 months later, the 54-year-old former Olympic rower turned himself in to Victoria police and was subsequently charged with two counts of fraud over $5,000.

After Backer’s disappearance, several clients including his former rowing coach claimed they lost millions of dollars they had invested with him. Backer, who was on the Canadian rowing team in the 1984, 1988 and 1992 Olympics, has been released on $50,000 bail and, at press time, was living with his mother awaiting his next court appearance in June.

HEAD GAMES

Security camera captures “accident”

When a fire sprinkler nozzle suddenly landed on the desk of Sheyla Veronica White, she did what any self-respecting office worker would do. She thought for a moment and then hit herself on the head with it. The Fort Lauderdale, Fla., woman was obviously hoping to make an insurance claim based on the workplace “accident,” but a security camera caught the entire episode. When the insurance company investigated her claim, they discovered the security footage, which has since gone viral, and charged her with insurance fraud. White was sentenced to 18 months of probation.