Scam artist a no-show for verdict

The father of five has been driving around Thornhill, where he lives, in a Mercedes SUV while his victims have lost large chunks of their life savings to schemes hatched by him and his brother, Toronto police Sgt. Rennie Johnson said outside court. "These guys are real scum," she said.

The Toronto Star
October 17, 2006

Scam artist a no-show for verdict
Police seeking Thornhill man. Defrauded $81,000 from woman, 79.
Peter Small

A scam artist who talked elderly ladies into thousands of dollars in unnecessary home renovations has been convicted once again, but he wasn't in court to hear the verdict.

Justice Arthur Gans issued a bench warrant for the arrest of Jacob Belillti, 48, yesterday after he failed to appear.

The judge went on to convict him in absentia of defrauding $81,743 from a 79-year-old Leaside woman who suffers from senile dementia.

The father of five has been driving around Thornhill, where he lives, in a Mercedes SUV while his victims have lost large chunks of their life savings to schemes hatched by him and his brother, Toronto police Sgt. Rennie Johnson said outside court.

"These guys are real scum," she said. "The only way they can make money is by ripping off seniors."

His younger brother Avi, 41, who spells his last name Balilti, has already admitted to defrauding the woman and two other elderly ladies and has agreed to make restitution of $130,000.

In November 2004, Jacob Belillti, who was out on recognizance pending sentencing on a similar fraud conviction, knocked on the Leaside senior's door and told her she appeared to need waterproofing, court heard.

He talked her into signing a $15,729 contract with Global Renovations and General Contracting Inc., a now-defunct company run by him and his brother, for external waterproofing.

The woman, who is only being identified by her first name Chris at police request to protect her from further exploitation, issued a $10,000 cheque as a down payment.

She entered a second contract in December to install a concrete floor in the basement. Five other cheques followed, bringing the total to $81,743.

Prosecutor Kim Walker had argued that the work wasn't needed and that the contracts, overpriced as they were, did not address the purported problem. The judge agreed.

"He could have easily been convicted for overcharging her," Gans commented.

On a second count, Gans acquitted Belillti "with some misgivings," of defrauding another Leaside woman, 88, of $22,000, because the work to prevent basement leaks may have been necessary and was at least begun.

The frail woman, who also suffers from dementia, is also only being identified by her first name, Wilma, to protect her from other scams.

The judge convicted Belillti of a further two counts of failing to comply with court orders preventing him from handling financial instruments issued by other people. He was caught trying to certify cheques from the two elderly women.

He has been convicted four previous times in similar frauds of elderly women and, once of an older couple. He would typically act as the company salesman, telling the isolated seniors he just happened to be in the area and noticed they had water problems, Johnson said.

Before he disappeared yesterday he had been granted $50,000 bail pledged by his wife, mother-in-law and a former employer.

Defence lawyer Rudi Covre said outside court the no-show was a complete surprise. Covre asked the judge to be struck off the record as Belillti's lawyer.

Johnson said police will be searching for him and ask that anyone else who has had dealings with him or his company to contact the fraud squad at 416-808-7300.

Credit: Toronto Star


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