Six Montrealers facing extradition to the U.S. for alleged fraud

A Pennsylvania woman who is among the alleged victims of a lottery scheme involving six Montreal-area men has testified she lost nearly US$300,000.

The six are facing extradition to the United States to face charges related to the alleged fraud of US$1.35 million.

Court documents provide similar testimony from two other alleged victims in Pennsylvania as well as two from California, and one each from Massachusetts and Oregon. They were all led to believe they had won a Canadian lottery.

The documents allege the Pennsylvania woman was first targeted in November 2011, when a man identifying himself as a Canadian-based attorney told her she had won $80,000 in a lottery in Canada.

But before she could receive the prize, she was allegedly told she had to pay taxes and customs fees totalling $8,000. The fees could be paid through Western Union and/or MoneyGram.

After she wired that amount, an individual who claimed to be a U.S. customs officer allegedly contacted her and said the prize was actually $800,000, meaning additional taxes of more than $88,000.

The court documents allege she was then contacted by another person claiming to be an agent with the Internal Revenue Service. She was told there was an additional $900,000 lottery prize but again had to pay taxes and fees before she could collect. The woman was also provided with lenders to help her pay for the additional fees.

In the end, the American lost about $295,000 _ her life savings _ because of the allegedly fraudulent sweepstakes.

The fraud artists allegedly used prepaid cellphones to call the Americans and then tell them to send money to cover taxes, transfer fees and insurance.

The phones were obtained and listed under fictitious names.

The six accused, who allegedly conspired with one another, range in age from 53 to 72 and were arrested at the request of prosecutors in Pennsylvania.

American authorities allege the group was part of a network that operated out of Montreal from May 2011 through at least October 2013.

The alleged victims never received the winning lottery money they were promised.

The recent arrests came after a three-year inquiry that involved the RCMP and Quebec provincial police.

It was part of a U.S.-Canada initiative known as “Project COLT,” which targeted telemarketers.

RCMP investigators say the accused are to appear in Quebec Superior Court in early June.

Preliminary data shows Saskatchewan impaired driving deaths down in 2017: SGI

Saskatchewan’s Crown-owned insurance company is reporting a sharp drop in impaired driving deaths.

Saskatchewan Government Insurance says preliminary data shows 39 people died in crashes involving alcohol or drugs in 2017 compared to 57 the year before.

SGI credits three factors for the encouraging statistics; more police enforcement, tougher penalties, and increased awareness.

Joe Hargrave, minister responsible for SGI, says the numbers suggest attitudes and behaviours about impaired driving are changing in the province.

In 2015, a Statistics Canada report showed Saskatchewan had the highest rate of police-reported impaired driving in Canada.

SGI says despite the improvement impaired driving remains a serious concern, especially with the pending legalization of recreational marijuana this summer.

“The fact that we’re seeing fewer collisions, injuries and fatalities attributed to impaired driving has us cautiously optimistic,” Hargrave said in a release Thursday.

Hargrave says Saskatchewan has taken a zero tolerance approach to drug-impaired driving.

Legislation introduced last fall is expected to pass in the coming weeks.

The group Mothers Against Drunk Driving says the downward trend in impaired driving deaths in Saskatchewan shows how stronger laws and raising awareness can affect what people do behind the wheel.

Troubled Chinese insurer receives government bailout

The troubled Chinese insurer that owns New York City’s Waldorf Hotel said Wednesday, April 4, 2018 it is receiving a $9.6 billion bailout from a government-run fund.

Regulators seized control of Anbang Insurance Group in February after a global asset-buying spree raised questions about its stability. Its founder, Wu Xiaohui, went on trial last week on charges he defrauded investors and misused company money.

The case added to a string of scandals in China’s insurance industry. The industry’s former top regulator was charged in September with taking bribes and other insurers have been accused of reckless speculation in stocks and real estate.

The injection of money from the China Insurance Security Fund will help Anbang “maintain stable operations,” the privately owned insurer said on its website.

The injection of 60.8 billion yuan ($9.6 billion) will increase Anbang’s registered capital to 61.9 billion yuan ($9.8 billion), the company said. That would mean the government fund owns 98 per cent of the company, wiping out most of the equity stake of Wu and other shareholders.

Anbang said it would look for strategic investors. That suggested they might be expected to buy out the government’s funds ownership.

The Communist Party has made reducing financial risk a priority this year after a surge in debt prompted rating agencies last year to cut Beijing’s credit rating for government borrowing.

Anbang is being run by a committee of officials from China’s insurance regulator, central bank and other agencies. They have said its obligations to policyholders and creditors are unaffected.

Wu founded Anbang in 2004 and, while rarely appearing in public, gained a reputation for aggressive expansion in a stodgy industry dominated by state-owned insurers.

The company grew to more than 30,000 employees with 35 million clients. It diversified into life insurance, banking, asset management, leasing and brokerage services.

Wu is accused of fraudulently raising 65 billion yuan ($10 billion) from investors and abusing his post to benefit himself. State television showed him confessing in a Shanghai court last week but no verdict has been announced.

Anbang discussed possibly investing in a Manhattan skyscraper owned by the family of U.S. President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner. Those talks ended last year with no deal.

The negotiations with Kushner Cos. about 666 Fifth Ave. prompted members of the U.S. Congress to raise ethics concerns.

Chinese insurance tycoon on trial on financial charges

The founder of the Chinese insurer that owns New York City’s Waldorf Hotel went on trial Wednesday, March 28, 2018 on charges he fraudulently raised $10 billion from investors and misused his position to enrich himself.

Wu Xiaohui, chairman of Anbang Insurance Group, was detained last year. Regulators took control of privately owned Anbang in February following a multibillion-dollar global buying spree that prompted questions about its financial stability.

The case added to an avalanche of scandals for Chinese insurers. The industry’s former chief regulator was charged in September with taking bribes. Executives of other insurers have been charged with corruption and mismanagement.

Beijing announced plans March 13 to merge the Chinese banking and insurance regulators in an effort to step up scrutiny of those fast-evolving industries. The ruling Communist Party has made reducing financial risk a priority after a run-up in debt owed by Chinese companies and local governments prompted rating agencies last year to cut Beijing’s credit rating for government borrowing.

Wu is accused of fraudulently raising 65 billion yuan ($10 billion) and abusing his post to divert money for his own use, according to a report by prosecutors on the social media account of the Shanghai No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court.

In court, Wu’s lawyer argued what he was accused of doing was a violation of regulations but not illegal, according to another post. A third post said Wu objected that he didn’t understand the law and didn’t know whether what he did was illegal.

Most trials in China last no more than a day, even for complex financial cases. There was no indication when a verdict in Wu’s case might be issued.

Anbang discussed possibly investing in a Manhattan skyscraper owned by the family of U.S. President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner. Those talks ended last year with no deal.

Regulators said they took control of Anbang on Feb. 23 to protect its solvency and consumer rights. The China Insurance Regulatory Commission said the takeover had no effect on Anbang’s financial obligations.

On Wednesday, Anbang issued a statement on its social media account saying its business is stable has “sufficient cash flow” to meet policy commitments.

Wu founded Anbang in 2004 and gained a reputation for aggressive expansion in a stodgy industry dominated by state-owned insurers.

The company grew to more than 30,000 employees with 35 million clients. It diversified into life insurance, banking, asset management, leasing and brokerage services.

Questions about Anbang’s future have swirled since it announced Wu handed his duties to deputies in June following news reports he was detained for questioning.

Anbang’s buying spree stumbled after Beijing tightened investment controls in late 2016. Regulators said they wanted to cool spending on foreign real estate and other assets they said did nothing to develop China’s economy.

Following that, Anbang failed to complete several deals, including the proposed purchase of U.S.-based Fidelity & Guaranty Life for $1.6 billion.

Wu also is accused of ignoring regulatory limits in selling high-interest investment products as short-term insurance contracts, according to Wednesday’s statement.

Such sales raised 724 billion yuan ($115 billion) from 10.6 million investors from 2011 to 2017, the statement said. It said some of that money was transferred to companies controlled by Wu for “reckless personal spending.”

Regulators warned Anbang and other insurers last year about use of such investment products.

Other insurers have been accused of endangering the financial safety of their industry through reckless speculation in stocks and real estate. The chairman of a life insurance company was barred from the industry last year in an unrelated case and a third company was prohibited from trading stocks.

Anbang’s early investors included a state-owned automaker, an oil company and a mix of rural villagers and small business owners. Its multibillion-dollar string of global acquisitions raised questions about how it paid for its buying spree, including the $2 billion purchase of the Waldorf.

The company’s negotiations with Kushner Cos. about a possible investment in its flagship property, 666 Fifth Avenue, prompted members of the U.S. Congress to raise ethics concerns.

Five lawmakers said in a letter to the White House the possible deal represented a “clear conflict of interest.” They asked the Trump administration to confirm Kushner, who transferred his ownership stake to other family members, played no role in the negotiations.

Anbang said it raised 50 billion yuan ($8 billion) in capital in 2014 by taking on dozens of new shareholders. That increased its registered capital fivefold to 62 billion yuan ($9.5 billion), the biggest among Chinese insurers.

A prominent business magazine, Caixin, said in May 2017 at least 30 billion yuan ($4.3 billion) of that money really came from premiums paid by policyholders _ a violation of insurance regulations.

Anbang denied that and accused Caixin of publishing negative information about the company and Wu after pressing it to buy advertising.

The CIRC sent investigators to Anbang in June. It said in a statement in February they ordered unspecified improvements in operations and management.

California Judge: Coffee needs cancer warnings

A Los Angeles judge has ruled that California law requires coffee companies to carry a cancer warning label.

Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle said in a proposed decision Wednesday, March 28, 2018 that Starbucks and other coffee companies failed to show the threat from a chemical compound produced in the coffee roasting process was insignificant.

A non-profit group had sued coffee roasters, distributors and retailers under a state law that requires warnings on a wide range of chemicals that can cause cancer. One is acrylamide, a carcinogen present in coffee.

The coffee industry had claimed the chemical was present at harmless levels and should be exempt from the law because it results naturally from the cooking process to make the beans flavourful.

Proposed California judicial decisions can be reversed but are reversed rarely.

Court Rules Home Owners Have No Duty of Care When Tenant’s Dog Injures Others

Source: Erik Magraken: BC Injury Law and ICBC Claims Blog

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing the legal liability of a home owner whose tenant’s pet injures another.

In today’s case (Barlow v. Waterson) the Plaintiff alleged that a dog owned by the Defendant was off leash and caused her injury.  In the course of the lawsuit the Plaintiff sought to add the homeowner of the residence where the Defendant was residing as an additional Defendant.  The court rejected this application finding that even if all the allegations the Plaintiff was advancing were true the Defendant home owner owed no duty of care in the circumstances.  In dismissing the application Master Wilson provided the following reasons:

[13]         In this case, Mr. Seifi is not an occupier of the premises, having yielded control when he rented them to Ms. Waterson. Ms. Waterson was not Mr. Seifi’s agent as was found in Hindley. Mr. Seifi does not own the dog and therefore does not exercise control over the dog. He is not an occupier of Prospect Avenue, which presumably belongs to the municipality. He had no duty to control the dog owned by the defendant Waterson and had no ability or obligation to control or to limit activities on the property, let alone activities on the road adjacent to the property. To the extent there may be a bylaw regarding off leash dogs, that would be Ms. Waterson’s concern.

[14]         As for the allegation regarding adequate fencing in the proposed amended notice of civil claim, I agree with counsel for Mr. Seifi that there is no allegation that the dog here even escaped. In fact, the plaintiff’s evidence provided by way of her daughter’s email suggests that Ms. Waterson would routinely permit the dog to roam freely. This would suggest a failure to supervise or control the dog by Ms. Waterson as opposed to a failure to provide adequate fencing, a duty that would have been owed to Ms. Waterson but was not alleged by her in her Response to Civil Claim.

[15]         In the circumstances, although the threshold is a low one, I am not satisfied that Mr. Seifi owed any duty of care in this case to the plaintiff, and the application is dismissed.

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