The anatomy of a stolen home — and how 3 suspects got caught
It began as a typical phone call for Niroosan (Niro) Vivekanantharajah — someone who found him on Google, asking for his help in closing a home sale.
The Toronto real estate lawyer told CBC News he agreed to work with the clients, who were selling a home in Scarborough. He says they had all the required paperwork and good knowledge of the process.
“To be completely honest — they were perfect clients. They were really well prepared,” said Vivekanantharajah, who says they shared with him property tax documents, proof of a vacant home tax declaration and two pieces of identification: an Ontario driver’s licence and a permanent resident card. He checked the IDs over a virtual Zoom call, where the client held a driver’s licence up to her face. Photos were also submitted to his office for review.
But within the span of a few weeks, those clients would be arrested by Toronto police, accused of executing a sophisticated title fraud to sell a home that did not belong to them. It’s a series of events put in place largely by Vivekanantharajah, who became suspicious after a call from the bank.
“I guess I got lucky and I just went with my intuition, but it could have easily happened to me as well.”
Vivekanantharajah is sharing his story to alert others about just how easy it is for some to facilitate this kind of fraud. A common thread in every title fraud story that CBC News has covered is the use of fraudulent identification, such as an Ontario driver’s licence. Experts say the IDs are becoming more and more advanced — making it increasingly difficult to thwart this kind of fraud.
Vivekanantharajah’s suspicions began after the deal was closed. The single family detached home in Scarborough sold for $840,000 in a private sale and wasn’t listed on MLS — the platform used by real estate agents and brokers to share information about properties for sale. The proceeds were then transferred to the alleged fraudster’s account.
He says he received a call from the bank where the funds were being held asking for him to verify the identity of his client in order to release the money.
He says the bank employee flagged to him that the account was new, and that this was the first transaction. She also flagged a potential issue with the permanent resident card being used as an ID.
“I couldn’t get confirmation that it was fake. They just said ‘It’s potentially fake, but we’re not sure.’ ”
The employee told Vivekanantharajah that if he could verify the client’s identity, she would release the funds, but he said he wanted to be completely sure before doing that. So he and his associate made a plan and decided to play detective — by visiting the home that had been sold.
“We just winged it, to be honest.” he said. “We didn’t even think it was going to work at all.”
Vivekanantharajah says the home in question had mail piling up outside, which was the first red flag for him, then he noticed porch door was locked, so he couldn’t get in to ring the bell.
“So I’m like, ‘How do people knock on the door? How do they even get mail or deliveries?’ ”
He proceeded to knock on the doors of neighbouring homes, where he met people who gave vague descriptions of the residents that seemed to match the clients he was dealing with.
After he left the area, he received a phone call from the next door neighbour who’d taken one of his business cards. The woman told him the owners were away in China and that she had the keys to the home.
“The second I told her, I’m like: ‘Ma’am, I sold this house,’ and she’s like, ‘What do you mean you sold the house?’ I’m like, ‘It’s gone.’ ”
The neighbours made contact with the homeowners, and Vivekanantharajah was able to confirm that his clients weren’t the true owners.
Vivekanantharajah, who also practices criminal law, says he alerted the bank to the alleged fraud, and the bank contacted police. He says they worked together to orchestrate a sting operation, which involved getting the alleged fraudsters to the bank in person.
He says he instructed the clients to go to a specific branch in Aurora, Ont., where a plainclothes officer was waiting for them.
“I knew they were desperate enough to go there and it pretty much sold — they went there,” said Vivekanantharajah.
Toronto police confirmed the Jan. 27 arrest of three suspects — Xue Wang, Ling Pan and Xing Yu Ling — who are now facing a charge of fraud over $5,000. Wang is also facing charges of possession proceeds obtained by crime over $5,000, launder proceeds of crime, personation with intent to obtain property and utter forged document.
Both the real owners and purchasers of the Scarborough home had title insurance, and Vivekanantharajah says the buyers — who were investors — have received the funds they paid for the home back. The owners, he says, are working on having their name restored to the home’s title.
Sophisticated fake IDs
In the recent cases of title fraud CBC News has reported on, a fake ID has been used by the alleged fraudsters — either posing as a renter to obtain access to the home or as the homeowner themselves.
In this case, the photographs on the IDs matched the alleged fraudsters, but the names and addresses matched the true homeowners.
The difficulty, according to experts, is that these types of fake IDs are only becoming more and more advanced.
“It is absolutely incredible how these IDs are identical replicas of an original,” said Daniela DeTommaso, the president of FCT Insurance, one of Canada’s four title insurance companies. She is tasked with remediating title fraud.
The trouble, she says, is that in many cases, even if someone checks the driver’s licence number using the province’s free online checker, it can come back as valid.
“In most of the frauds that we’re seeing the driver’s licence is in fact active, it just does not belong to the person that it’s supposed to belong to,” said DeTommaso.
“Throughout the COVID pandemic we saw an explosion in frauds using what I call synthetic IDs,” said Det. Const. John Armit with the anti-rackets branch of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP).
He says while much of that growth included fake IDs used in fraud involving CERB and auto-financing, they are popping up in real estate fraud.
“They have devices like printers and they use card stock and they create a fake identification,” he said.
“We’ve also seen through our investigations that these fraudsters will have perhaps a hologram or features that would be included in various different government identifications.”
The problem is, once a fraudster has a good fake ID, Armit says it can allow them access to other personal information or documents.
“Once you receive someone’s compromised identification, the floodgates are open and the opportunities are there for them to get credit cards or get credit.”
While Vivekanantharajah is being commended by DeTommaso and Armit for his actions, the alleged fraud still doesn’t sit well with him.
“I took it to heart because I think I’m a decent real estate lawyer — to the point where I actually train lawyers. So I didn’t like that it happened to me.”
He says he worked as a bouncer for years before becoming a lawyer, and with that he’s even more surprised he wasn’t able to catch the forgery. He says he doesn’t blame other lawyers who would have gone along with releasing the funds.
“So imagine: my job is to check ID on the regular for 11 years, and then even as a lawyer … I still didn’t catch it.”
The three suspects, Xue Wang, Ling Pan and Xing Yu Ling, are set to appear in court on March 24.
Canada: Fatal stabbing in Vancouver leaves city shaken – Hindustan Times
An Indo-Canadian has been arrested and has been charged with second-degree murder. The victim has been identified by the Vancouver Police Department as 37-year-old Paul Stanley Schmidt
Toronto: The city of Vancouver in British Colombia was left shaken after a person at Starbucks cafe was fatally stabbed, with an Indo-Canadian arrested for that alleged murder.
The incident occurred on Sunday, around 5.40pm and followed a brief altercation outside the outlet between two men.
The victim was identified by the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) on Monday as 37-year-old Paul Stanley Schmidt. Meanwhile, Inderdeep Singh Gosal, 32, has been charged with second-degree murder.
Police continue to seek additional witnesses to the crime. “We believe this homicide was witnessed by dozens of bystanders, and there may be people with information who have not yet come forward,” VPD Sergeant Steve Addison said, in a release.
“We particularly want to hear from anyone who was present in the moments before the stabbing, or anyone who has cell-phone video of the incident.”
Investigators don’t believe the victim and suspect knew each other. The release added that the “the circumstances that led up to the fatal stabbing remain under investigation”.
A police constable patrolling the area was flagged down “moments after” the stabbing occurred. The suspect was arrested at the crime scene. Officers attempted to save the victim’s life but he did not survive and succumbed to the injuries sustained after being rushed to hospital.
Raw footage of the incident posted online have gone viral throughout Canada, as they show the victim lying outside the Starbucks, surrounded by his own blood, and also the alleged murderer, walking in and out of the glass doors to the establishment. Another video shows Gosal being arrested and taken into custody by police.
Schmidt was the city’s sixth homicide victim of this year.
The apparent random act of violence attracted criticism of the law and order situation in Vancouver, among the major cities in Canada. Filmmaker Aaron Gunn tweeted, “Things are not getting better. They are still getting worse.”
Is femicide in Canada's Criminal Code? – CTV News
Advocates are pushing for the term femicide to be added to Canada’s Criminal Code, saying it would help raise awareness on the issue.
In 2020, a report by the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability found that one woman or girl is killed every two and a half days in Canada. Femicide refers to homicides that target women and girls because of their gender.
Understanding the violence females face specifically, advocates are hoping for more awareness of femicide at the federal level.
“It’s really important that we name femicide,” Jennifer Hutton, CEO of Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region, Ont, told CTV’s Your Morning on Tuesday. “There are some unique traits about femicide. It’s really about men’s violence against women.”
Hutton believes femicide should be in the Criminal Code to prevent tragedies through better understanding.
“Until we name it, then how can we change it?” she said.”When it’s a separate part of the Criminal Code, then we have better data to track it, so we know just how prevalent it really is.”
Femicide can include instances when a woman or girl is killed by an intimate partner, a non-intimate partner, or in an armed conflict. The term can also include women who are not the intended victim, but are killed in the femicide of another woman, too.
For Indigenous women and girls, Hutton says they are killed at six times the rate of non-Indigenous women and girls.
Hutton is partnering with Jenna Mayne, who hosts the podcast “She is Your Neighbour” focusing on femicide in Canada.
“We hear from survivors, we hear from family members who have lost women to femicide, and we hear from experts,” Mayne said. “I think these stories are difficult to hear, but they’re so important to hear too.”
To listen to the full interview click the video at the top of this article.
Grocery rebate coming in federal budget 2023
The 2023 federal budget will include a one-time “grocery rebate” for Canadians with lower incomes who may be struggling with the rising cost of food, CTV News has confirmed.
According to sources, the new measure will be unveiled in Tuesday’s federal budget and will help nearly 11 million lower-income Canadians.
The new measure would see eligible couples with two children receive a payment of up to $467, a senior would receive $225, while a single person would receive $234 dollars.
The benefit will be rolled out through the GST rebate system, once a bill implementing it passes in the House of Commons, according to sources. This move is essentially re-upping and re-branding the recent GST rebate boost.
The amounts expected to be offered are exactly what the Liberals offered through last fall’s doubling of the GST credit, a boost that was estimated to cost $2.5 billion and got all-party backing. It’s not expected that there will be a requirement to spend the rebate on groceries.
According to Statistics Canada’s latest inflation report, food prices rose 11.4 per cent year-over-year in January, nearly double the rate of inflation of 5.9 per cent and up from 11 per cent the previous month.
The increased cost of food has been the focus of a parliamentary study that’s seen grocery CEOs, including Loblaw chairman and president Galen Weston, grilled over grocery profits.
“I’ve been talking with Canadians from coast, to coast, to coast over the past many months hearing directly concerns around affordability, around the high cost of food, of rent, of so many different things. That’s why a big part of the budget will be focused on measures to help Canadians in targeted ways,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on Parliament Hill on Monday.
“Groceries will certainly be part of it but, there’s other things as well that we’re going to continue to do to be there for Canadians…I look forward to a great budget tomorrow.”
The NDP had been calling for the Liberals to double the GST tax credit. Reacting to the news, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said this measure “looks very much like… what we’ve been asking for, for a long time.”
Both Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland have been hinting for weeks that the 2023 budget would include targeted affordability measures to directly help those feeling the pinch of inflation the most.
“This support will be narrowly focused and fiscally responsible. The truth is, we can’t fully compensate every single Canadian for all of the effects of inflation or for elevated interest rates,” Freeland said last week in a pre-budget speech signalling her priorities. “To do so would only make inflation worse and force rates higher, for longer.”
On Monday afternoon, the finance minister took part in a long-standing tradition of picking out a new pair of shoes to wear on budget day.
This year, Freeland opted for a pair of black heels that were on sale at Canadian retailer Simons, from the store’s in-house brand. She placed them in a reusable tote bag after purchase.
WHAT ELSE TO EXPECT IN BUDGET 2023?
With the economy expected to continue slowing in the months ahead, potentially leading to a recession, Freeland is facing calls for the massive fiscal document to include a plan to promote economic growth.
Amid Bank of Canada’s interest rate hikes, inflation cooled to 5.2 per cent in February. That’s down from 5.9 per cent in January, after 40-year record highs over the summer, reaching 8.1 per cent in June.
“What Canadians want right now is for inflation to come down and for interest rates to fall. And that is one of our primary goals in this year’s budget: not to pour fuel on the fire of inflation,” Freeland said in her pre-budget positioning speech.
At the same time, she signalled the 2023 federal budget will still be prioritizing “two significant and necessary investments”: the $46.2 billion in new funding included in the $196 billion federal-provincial health-care funding deals, and new measures to boost Canada’s clean industrial economy.
It’s the latter that government officials have signalled will get some attention in tomorrow’s budget, with several news outlets reporting there will be sizable—30 per cent, according to Reuters— new clean technology-focused tax credits to generate growth in the electrical vehicle supply chain and in critical mineral extraction and processing.
The November 2022 fall economic update had telegraphed that these kinds of credits and investments were ahead.
“Tomorrow…we’re bringing forward a budget that is focused on affordability and supporting Canadians… and creating great jobs for the middle class in a clean and growing economy. Those are the focuses that we’ve been laser focused on over the past many years,” Trudeau said in the House of Commons on Monday, fresh off of U.S. President Joe Biden’s visit, where the green economy was a central piece of discussion.
Canada’s clear focus on the clean transition comes in part out of a need for these sectors to remain competitive in the face of the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act, which offers billions of dollars in energy incentives south of the border.
The Canadian Press has also reported that Tuesday’s budget will include an increase to the withdrawal limit for a registered education savings plan (RESP) from $5,000 to $8,000; and a plan to go after hidden or unexpected consumer fees known as “junk fees” that inflate the overall cost of a product or service.
Finance Canada officials, who for some time have been parsing the stacks of pre-budget submissions from various industries and sectors, will also have to factor in the Liberals’ commitments to the New Democrats, with key planks of the two-party confidence deal due to come to fruition this year.
“We still want to see confirmation of the dental care expansion to include seniors, people living with disabilities and kids 18 and under. We really want this budget to save money for people, and that’s something really important for us,” Singh said.
With this budget, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has called on the federal government to lower taxes, end “inflationary” spending, match new spending with savings, and improve housing affordability.
“He wants to take away everybody’s money, centralize it in his own hands, and promise that it will trickle down through his mighty bureaucracy… And there will maybe be a few little drops that get down to the people who actually earned it in the first place,” Poilievre levelled at the prime minister during Monday’s question period. “Will he cap government spending and put an end to the inflationary deficits, tomorrow?”
The fall economic statement issued in November 2022 projected the federal deficit at $36.4 billion in 2022-23, down from the $52.8 billion forecast in the April 2022 federal budget. Freeland also forecasted that federal coffers could be back to balance by 2027-28.
The 2023 federal budget is coming just ahead of a two-week break in the House of Commons, allowing Liberal MPs to then descend on their ridings to promote it to their constituents before coming back to the capital to work on getting the budget implementation legislation passed through the minority Parliament.
With files from CTV News’ Chief Political Correspondent Vassy Kapelos, and CTVNews.ca’s Michael Lee and Spencer Van Dyk
First Citizens acquires troubled Silicon Valley Bank – CP24
Player grades: Edmonton Oilers survive scrambly affair in Arizona, pull out 5-4 win – Edmonton Journal
iOS 16.4—Apple Just Gave iPhone Users 33 Reasons To Update Now – Forbes
Silver investment demand jumped 12% in 2019
Iran anticipates renewed protests amid social media shutdown
Search for life on Mars accelerates as new bodies of water found below planet’s surface
News15 hours ago
Grocery rebate coming in federal budget 2023
Tech12 hours ago
Is Shimano about to ditch derailleur hangers? Patent reveals direct-mount derailleur design
Health12 hours ago
Respiratory Outbreak Over: Jasper Place – Thunder Bay District Health Unit
Real eState16 hours ago
JPMorgan says commercial real estate decline is intensifying. Beware these exposed stocks
Sports13 hours ago
Maple Leafs clinch playoff berth with Panthers loss to Senators
Tech14 hours ago
Warner Bros brawler Multiversus to go offline in June 2023
Investment14 hours ago
Sen. Bob Casey oversaw Pa. pension investment in China-linked firm
Real eState13 hours ago
House of the Week: $4.8 million for a humongous Whitby estate with a turret and a 15-foot-tall waterfall