Scams and shams – February 2018

Tennis star Maria Sharapova is facing fraud charges, while Ottawa restaurants are still teeming with mislabeled fish.


Tennis ace courts fraud charges

As Russia’s winter Olympians deal with their woes, one of their warm-weather colleagues is facing more of her own. Tennis star Maria Sharapova, who in 2016 made US$29.1 million, rented her image to a New Delhi, India, developer that allegedly accepted tens of millions from investors without ever producing a building. She flew to India in 2013 to launch the project; the investigation into the alleged fraud was launched in November 2017. Sharapova recently returned to the sport after a one-year doping ban.


Valentine’s Day scams

A heart broken on the keyboard

According to the FBI, losses from online romance scams totalled more than US$86 million in 2014. And nefarious scammers up their game on February 14 to exploit the lonely hearted. So make this Valentine’s Day resolution now: just say no to emails from secret admirers; emails telling you there’s an undelivered package waiting for you; unexpected delivery people who won’t reveal who sent them; and finally, anybody you meet online that day who wants to strike up a relationship.


More fraud in the corner office

A former executive of the South Korean Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co. was sent to jail for six years for accounting fraud and other charges. Nam Sang-tae, 67, was charged in January 2017 with incurring some US$140 million in losses for the shipyard that he headed from 2006 to 2012 by purchasing a major stake in a heavy industry firm at a value three times higher than market price. In 2006, Daewoo founder Kim Woo-choong was sentenced to 10 years for fraud.


An old pair of sneakers

Former NBA player Kermit Washington, 66, teamed up with retired pro football star Ronald Jack Mix, 78, to raise money for an African charity but used hundreds of thousands of the proceeds for their own benefit. The pair pleaded guilty to a variety of fraud-related charges in Las Vegas in December and have yet to be sentenced. In 2015, Washington was also implicated in one of the largest software piracy schemes ever prosecuted by the US Department of Justice.


Ottawa teems with fake foul fish

Here’s a fact you will remember: an investigation into seafood mislabelling in Ottawa showed that a fish called escolar has been “passing” as tuna. Escolar — for good reason — is also called “laxative of the sea.” That’s just one of the many perils of food fraud, a huge issue worldwide. A recent study by conservation group Oceana Canada in Ottawa revealed 45 out of 98 samples from local restaurants and grocers were mislabelled.