Toronto senior caught up in apparent scam; arrested for drug trafficking
Published Saturday, June 2, 2018 8:19PM EDT Last Updated Saturday, June 2, 2018 8:35PM EDT
A 66-year-old Toronto-area man is awaiting trial for drug trafficking in Ecuador after his family says he was duped out of his life savings by a group of fraudsters.
The man, who CTV News agreed not to identify due to his shame and fear for his safety, was flown to Ecuador on May 12, under the guise of retrieving the money he had lost, his daughter said in an interview Saturday.
E-mails and flight information sent to the man before and during the trip and viewed by CTV News show he was told he would be bringing documents back to Canada on May 19 and would meet with an associate in Toronto to retrieve his money.
He was stopped by airport officials in Ecuador on May 19 after they allegedly found about $45,000 worth of cocaine sewn into the side of the bag, his daughter said.
After spending the weekend in jail, he was released on bail and is now awaiting trial in June.
From what his two Toronto-area children can tell, the saga began in late 2015 when he was seeking out a second mortgage on his home.
Somehow, he came across what appeared to be an offer from a real bank in Ecuador for a $195,000 loan at three-per-cent interest over 10 years. It was better than any deal he could find in Canada.
He began sending money for so-called administrative fees to Ecuador.
At some point, his daughter said, he was met by someone with a case full of what he thought was $1.2 million USD, covered in black dye. Among Canadian police officers, the scam is commonly referred to as the "Black Money Scam."
The man was told that if he kept sending the fraudsters money, they would be able to purchase the expensive solvent necessary to clean the black dye from the money.
"I am aware that the scenario described seems improbable to many," Toronto Police Det. Sgt. Ian Nichol wrote in an affidavit sent to the man's family. "That said the stated occurrence describes the classic narrative associated to the black money fraud scenario. It has been my experience that victims of such crimes are very reluctant to acknowledge their victimhood, and once immersed in the scheme, they lack the ability to think critically. Once victims have reached this stage, they are extremely vulnerable to suggestion and are often targeted for re-victimization by the original suspects, or passed over to other suspects for continued exploitation."
According to the affidavit, the man's daughter met with Nichol at Toronto Police headquarters on April 26. According to the daughter, Nichol had agreed to meet with the man to try to convince him of the scam, but the man flew to Ecuador before the meeting could happen.
The trail of e-mails and receipts between December 2015 and May 2018 paint a picture of a man deeply immersed in a scam and believing the steps he was taking would get him his money back.
"I think he lost so much, he just could not accept that it was fake," his daughter said.
The man sent every pay cheque from his 40-year career to Ecuador, missing mortgage payments and forcing him to sell his home after the house went into foreclosure.
Bank records show two months after making more than $100,000 off the sale of his home in 2016, all of that money was gone -- sent to the fraudsters in Ecuador, according to his family and transaction records.
Despite several family members trying to convince him that he was being duped, the man could not be swayed, his daughter said.
She went to the RCMP and York Regional Police for help, but claims she was told they could not intervene because her father was of sound mind. That led her to Toronto Police.
According to Nichol's affidavit, at the time he met with the man's daughter, "Details were difficult to obtain as (her father) continues to be secretive about the matter, either due to embarrassment, or due to being so deeply immersed in the scheme, that he was incapable of realizing he had been defrauded."
Not until after his detainment in Ecuador, his daughter said, did he realize he had been duped.
"What those drugs would have been worth, which I have been told is about $45,000 Canadian, to him, would have been peanuts compared to what he would have come back here to get (from his salary) and what he lost. He would have not let anything stop him from coming back here. He was so brainwashed," his daughter said. "He sounded scared and frustrated. It's finally hit him after all this time that he was tricked and defrauded and it's really scary for him."
The man's daughter said he is without his medication for health issues, including emphysema, a blockage in his heart and high blood pressure.
"We're just scared and we want to help him. There's not much we can do. All we can do is send his legal fees down there."
The woman said she has been in contact with her father's lawyer, who said he is facing five to seven years in prison, but that if he is lucky, he will spend about two-and-a-half years behind bars and will be allowed to serve his sentence in a Canadian institution.
The man's family has been in touch with Global Affairs Canada, which they say has been acting as a go-between to transfer money to their father.
"It would be great if they could delve into further, the situation of my dad being victimized that got him down there to start and actually talk to authorities in Ecuador for them to consider that," the daughter said. "His lawyers already made it clear that him being victimized down there is not going to be considered strong (with the defence)."