“Trust me I can get you into Canada…” If it sounds too good to be true, it is!
- Brandley Jacobson given 4 ½ years in prison and a fine of $381,600
- Windsor lawyer and assistant get into hot water for fake refugee claims
- Russians get ripped off by Yafim Goikhberg. Fake documents and a big scam got a lot of people in trouble
- Thinking of a fake marriage? Think again. Bogus immigration consultant gets caught
Would-be immigrants are easy prey for two main reasons. First, they'd fantasized about that apple-pie life for so long, and when it finally seems within reach, they charge head-on, ready to pay any price. Second, desperate people lose sense of reality, and the bad guys know it, too. The higher the hopes, the heftier the price.
For years, manipulative schemes of small and bigger crooks circulated Canadian media as a sort of warning. To curtail cheating practices and misconduct, the government even introduced the Cracking Down on Crooked Consultants Act back in 2010. Immigration and Minister Jason Kenney said it right: among the many decent apples in the barrel, there are rotten ones that tend to tarnish the otherwise good name of the immigration consultants guild.
Fraud and abuse of trust are part of the complexity of human nature. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that native Canadian and naturalized citizens alike have been tempted by the possibility to cash on high hopes and dropped guards. Here are some unfortunate examples.
Mr. Bradley Jacobson established an immigration consulting firm in 2009, and allegedly began setting up fake businesses to bring foreign workers to Canada. Without a license, he targeted mainly would-be immigrants from the Philippines, Nepal and India, though Jacobson has stated that the firm had representatives in 15 countries. He used several aliases while posing as different businessmen, supposedly making fraudulent employment offers and issuing forged “official” documents. Among Jacobson's 373 victims was a Nepali immigrant who spoke openly about it. He claimed, as quoted by Canadian media, that 111 of his relatives and friends had sold their property in Nepal and wired money to Jacobson, hoping to get travel visas. That never happened. Then in September 2009, Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) began an investigation and soon after Jacobson faced 23 counts of immigration fraud. He pleaded guilty to nine offenses under the Criminal Code and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. The result: 4 ½ years in prison and a payback of $381,600 in restitution to his victims.
Windsor immigration lawyer Sandra Zaher, along with her assistant Diana Al-Masalkhi, were arrested in March, 2012. Both were charged for counseling candidates primarily from the Middle East to seek refugee status based on fabricated personal stories. Undercover RCMP agents began an investigation, while pretending to be in need of Ms Zaher's services. Soon after, they were advised to lie in their refugee claims and come up with plausible tearjerkers. While her website was still up, Sandra Zaher stated that her parents were Italian immigrants, and that she was married to an “Arabic physician”. She also honestly hoped that her multicultural background would be an asset in helping refugees adjust to their new life. She was charged with misrepresentation, counseling misrepresentation and fabricating evidence. Since then her case has dropped out of the spotlight.
Yafim Goikhberg, a Canadian citizen of Russian origin, is now halfway through a 5-year prison term, after being convicted in September 2011 in Montreal. At one point he faced 149 counts of violating the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Goikhberg actually worked as an immigration consultant for eight years, and managed to establish a network of agencies based in Russia, Israel and former Soviet Union countries. All that his clients wanted was his help with immigrating to Canada. He obliged, and would even go and meet the new arrivals at the airport, playing nice and taking control of their lives right then and there. Often without speaking a word of English, those people had no idea that Goikhberg was intentionally making their stay illegal. He pushed most of them to seek refugee status, so he could obtain federal funds on the premise that his clients needed financial help for health reasons. And that was not nice.
Along the way, he used 53 fake documents to keep the scam going. In fact, Goikhberg had an accomplice, one Svetlana Kiryanova, who was his fiance at the time. Although she also faced five counts of forging documents and 18 counts of violating the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, her sentence was much lighter: an 18-month house arrest plus community service. She wasn't the mastermind of it all, but still encouraged her clients to use fake documents on applications for refugee status or a temporary resident permit. Both Goikhberg and Kiryanova will never find employment as immigration consultants ever again.
Back in August 2012, 39 people were arrested and charged in Montreal with participating in a fake marriage ring. The scheme was simple: bring people to Canada by means of false or pretend marriage to a Canadian citizen or permanent resident. The ensuing investigation revealed that the engine behind it was called Amadou Niang, a bogus immigration consultant. He helped individuals from North Africa, whose visas were about to expire, remain in Canada. Young and willing Canadian women were recruited, and for a particular amount of money, they would become fictitious brides to grooms on shaky legal grounds. If the authorities suspect and later discover a marriage of convenience, all parties involved are liable to face repercussions. A curious fact remains how much such marriage costs. Reports are conflicting, but it could be anywhere from $35,000 up to $100,000, as openly advertised in some ethnic newspapers in Canada.
Embarking on such an adventure as to relocate to another country requires some homework on the candidate's part. It is definitely hard to know the person promising you the world from thousands of miles away, but initial research is a must to ensure success. Word-of-mouth could work, but finding a legal consultant and adviser is always a much better option.