Ticket or Leave it

Victims were instructed to send the difference in price to bank accounts in Toronto, the Bahamas or the United Kingdom or to specific mailboxes across Canada. More than 200 people fell for the scheme. The exact loss is unknown, but 77 investors contacted by investigators lost a total of almost $3-million.

The Globe and Mail
July 24, 2004

Ticket or Leave it
Larry Hardiman says he’s been livivng on the straight and narrow since being busted for TTC ticket fraud. His ‘Mom and Pop’ operation is over – and so is the fake passport and the $25-million credit-card scam
Jeff Gray

Two brothers have pleaded guilty to operating a stock-swap scam that bilked investors around the world of millions of dollars.

Alan and Elliot Benlolo of Toronto entered their pleas last week in Ontario Superior Court at their sentencing hearing for another scam that involved bogus telephone bills for Internet advertising. Federal Crown attorney Robert Goldstein told the court at the sentencing hearing that Canadian businesses lost at least $1-million.

According to the agreed statement of facts entered into the court record with their guilty pleas, the brothers were charged along with six other men in connection with a fraudulent international scheme that ran between September of 1999 and September of 2000.

The court document states that potential victims in many countries were offered shares in non-existent microchip or small businesses. Investors, who were led to believe they were dealing with a reputable brokerage firm, were subsequently informed that their shares had plummeted in value.

But there was good news, investors were told. The companies in which they had bought stock wanted to privatize and were willing to buy back their shares at above market value provided they agreed to buy shares in "blue-chip" companies at below-market prices.

Victims were instructed to send the difference in price to bank accounts in Toronto, the Bahamas or the United Kingdom or to specific mailboxes across Canada.

More than 200 people fell for the scheme. The exact loss is unknown, but 77 investors contacted by investigators lost a total of almost $3-million.

The brothers are to be sentenced Sept. 21, the same day they will learn whether they will serve jail time for the other scam. Madam Justice Anne Molloy will sentence them on both frauds.

To be sentenced with them for their part in the phone-bill scam is their younger brother Simon and another man, Victor Serfaty. All are in their 30s.

The four were charged under Canada's Competition Act with promoting a product using misleading or false advertising. They pleaded not guilty, but a jury convicted them of mailing bogus telephone invoices to businesses across the country for advertising on a Yellow Pages website. Thousands of businesses paid the bill, which was less than $30.

Lawyer Lorne Sabsay, who represents the Benlolos, asked Judge Molloy to not send his clients to prison, arguing they have young families to look after. Mr. Serfaty, who conducted his own defence at trial, told the judge on Friday that he was willing to pay a fine and to perform community work if he was given house arrest instead of jail time.

Of the other six men charged in the stock scam, three pleaded guilty several years ago. Abraham Benitah received a conditional sentence of two years less a day, Joseph Cohen got two years in jail, and Baruch Confino was jailed for 18 months. Mark Roth will stand trial in November. Shlomo Saranga fled the country and has not been located. Charges against a sixth man were withdrawn.


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