Five people face charges in connection with a scam involving a phony website that police say was tricking investors to believe it was legitimate.
RCMP’s integrated market enforcement team (IMET) first began an investigation in December 2021 after it was notified by the Alberta Securities Commission (ASC), the province’s agency responsible for securities laws.
Police say the ASC informed them about a website, full of fraudulent information that had “attracted numerous investors” with “high interest investment opportunities” advertised online.
What’s worse is the website was using the name of a legitimate investment firm – something known as brand hijacking.
“Investors were convinced to send their investment funds to various accounts at several institutions across Canada before ultimately being moved to destination accounts,” RCMP said in a statement.
“The funds were subsequently dispersed through transactions not related to the intended investments.”
The investigation soon led to the arrests of five people in February and March of this year:
Quang Sac Hoang, 52, of Calgary;
Amarjit Panesar, 56, of Surrey, B.C.;
Mehdi Tabatabaie, 57, of North York, Ont.;
Amjed Barlas, 53, of Mississauga, Ont.; and
Rocky Stevenson, 36, of Whitby, Ont.
All five suspects are charged with fraud over $5,000, theft over $5,000, possession of the proceeds of crime over $5,000 and laundering the proceeds of crime.
There is no information about how much money the suspects are alleged to have taken from investors.
Police say this case highlights how important it is for investors to be cautious about where they put their money.
“This investigation revealed a nefarious and elaborate interprovincial scheme that preyed upon Canadians and their hard-earned money,” said Insp. Stephen Reid, operations officer for Calgary’s IMET, in a statement.
“With the support of various police and partner agencies, we were able to bring these individuals to justice and stop others from being targeted.”
Barlas, Stevenson and Tabatabaie made their first court appearances on March 6, while Hoang appeared in court on March 9.
Panesar is scheduled to appear in court on April 13.
Anyone who believes they are the victim of fraud is advised to contact their local police and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre by calling 1-888-495-8501 or going online.