We have published many blog posts on various fraud recovery issues such as pre-action asset freezing, coordinating civil fraud recovery with criminal prosecutions, and obtaining and enforcing fraud judgments – to name a few. For an index of fraud recovery articles we have published, see https://investigationcounsel.com/blog/ .
In this blog post, we discuss a new and helpful tool that may be used by lawyers and those involved in fraud recovery: press releases through our Canadian fraud news aggregator and on-line media portal – Canadian Fraud News Inc. (“CFN”). As discussed herein, the power of the media is not only important to assist recovery efforts for fraud victims, but is also important to the public at large as part of a general fraud prevention strategy.
Publication of Civil and Criminal Fraud Judgments Issued by the Courts
In Canada there currently does not exist a central registry of civil and criminal fraud judgments that would allow anyone to simply search a name to determine whether someone they are dealing with has been involved in fraud.
Unless a formal press release is issued or a journalist is following a story, most fraud judgments issued by the Canadian Courts are not available for searching in a single database. Most fraud judgments go unreported by the mainstream media and cannot be found through a search by a person’s name with online search engines such as Google.
Currently, searching for whether judgments have been issued by Canadian Courts against anyone for fraud requires manual searches through various legal search engines and/or individual court files in each jurisdiction – a task that most members of the public will not pay for or know how to do.
Publication of Fraud Investigations and Judgments in Mainstream Media
Press releases are issued periodically by the police on those individuals they are investigating for fraud. However, these press releases are issued only a small fraction of their cases. Often police will issue a press release as a means to alert the public about an ongoing fraud investigation and to elicit other victims and information from the public. Even in such cases, the media often do not state the name of the person they are investigating for fraud in the headline.
The case of Steve Nowack demonstrates this point. The Toronto Police issued a press release entitled “Man Faces Seven Charge in $7M Fraud Investigation, Steven Joshua Nowack, 50” . Yet when the Toronto Sun published its story, the headline simply read “Man Charged in $7.1M Fraud”.
Without mention of Mr. Nowack’s name in the headline, those reading it, without going on to read the article, would not know the identity of the target of the investigation, and without further inquiry would not know whether they had been a victim of this fraudster or that they might have vital information to contribute to any ongoing investigation. – see: http://www.torontosun.com/2013/10/28/man-charged-in-71-million-fraud .
Press releases are also occasionally issued by law firms, usually in the context of announcements of class action lawsuits. Again, the purpose of these press releases is to alert potential members of the potential class of plaintiffs of the existence of the action, so that they may opt in or opt out, and to alert the public for the purposes of protecting themselves.
Press releases of judgments in criminal fraud cases are more prevalent in the mainstream media than judgments in civil cases. Yet similar to police press releases on fraud investigations, the criminal judgments reported in the press are a mere fraction of the judgments actually rendered. The result is that it is very difficult for most fraud victims, and those undertaking some basic due diligence, to easily search online or otherwise for information on persons involved in fraud.
Frequency of Publication of Press Releases sent to Mainstream Media
It is also important that fraud victims be aware that even if the police or those in the private sector issue a press release, there is no assurance that the mainstream media will publish the story.
For example, our firm is a member of Canadian Newswire (CNW). When CNW issues a press release, it is sent to mainstream media and each subscribing mainstream media outlet then decides what it wishes to publish. The reality is that most days the vast majority of press releases go unpublished – and hence again, it is difficult for those undertaking basic due diligence to easily search online or otherwise for information on persons involved in fraud.
Canadian Fraud News Inc. as a Fraud Prevention & Due Diligence Tool
As a result of the reality as described above, and as a public service in the continuing fight against fraud in Canada, we have created Canadian Fraud News Inc. (CFN). The primary purpose of CFN is to provide members of the public easier and more convenient access to judgments being issued by Canadian Courts in fraud cases, and as a central outlet for the publication of mainstream media stories on those allegedly involved in fraud.
CFN was created by journalist Lotte van Rosmalen. Ms. Van Rosmalen completed a master’s thesis on news aggregation at the University of Amsterdam, and then came to Canada. She offered to develop www.canadianfraudnews.com as an online fraud awareness publication. (For information on news aggregation, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/News_aggregator.)
After developing CFN in our offices for approximately a year, Ms. Van Rosmalen has returned to the Netherlands to pursue other endeavours, and CFN now continues to be developed by journalist Kayla Kuefler. Ms. Van Rosmalen’s efforts with CFN have contributed immensely to fraud prevention and awareness in Canada.
Canadian Fraud News Inc. as a Fraud Recovery Tool
In addition to CFN being a fraud prevention resource for Canadians, our firm is using CFN for fraud recovery and investigation purposes (as well for fraud awareness purposes).
The case of fraudster Cosimo Polidoro is an example. In 2016 we commenced an action against Mr. Polidoro on behalf of a group of investors who had provided funds to him for investment into residential building plots.
Unbeknownst to the investors, Mr. Polidoro was on charges by the York Regional Police for selling an interest in condos that allegedly did not exist. These investors did not have readily available access to this information, for example, by conducting a simple search on Google, to learn of the conduct that Mr. Polidoro eventually perpetrated on them. Without any further due diligence, they invested with Mr. Polidoro.
Later in 2016 we obtained judgment in fraud against Mr. Polidoro. The land lots sold by Mr. Polidoro, as described by Mr. Polidoro in his land agreements, did not exist. The investors’ money was never held in trust by Mr. Polidoro as he promised. The judgment included an order that Mr. Polidoro account to his victims for their stolen funds. Mr. Polidoro refused, and contempt of court proceedings were brought against him. During the contempt proceedings, Mr. Polidoro alleged that he is to receive an inheritance – which potentially could provide a means for recovery for his victims.
Through CFN, we had a story on the judgment and contempt of court proceedings published on Mr. Polidoro – see https://canadianfraudnews.com/man-selling-fictitious-building-plots-group-vaughan-real-estate-investors/ . As a result of publishing this story, other victims and persons with information on Mr. Polidoro have contacted our office. The information from persons contacting our office as a result of the CFN story on Mr. Polidoro is assisting in our recovery efforts against him.
Fact Checking Stories to Avoid Defamation Allegations
To state the obvious, publishing stories on fraud raises a concern about defamation. To avoid any bona fide complaints press releases should be drafted in a very fact-specific way, where each fact stated can be supported by a public document. Short press releases are preferred in any event, as the purpose is to put the reader on notice to make further inquiries or contact the law firm issuing the press release.
Journalists also recommend publishing the date of birth or the age, as well as the address or city, of the person who is the subject of the story so that they are not confused with someone with a similar or the same name. So for example, Steven Nowack’s date of birth is March 4, 1963, and he resides in Toronto. Cosimo Polidoro’s date of birth is February 12, 1962, and he resides in Pickering.
defence to any defamation allegation include truth and fair comment and in scenarios of qualified privilege, an honestly held belief. If a fraudster were to commence an action for defamation, he or she opens himself to be cross examined on the fraudulent conduct alleged – a situation which deters virtually all fraudsters from commencing defamation actions (not to mention the cost of such actions).
March is Fraud Prevention Month
It is no coincidence that we are publishing this blog post during Fraud Prevention Month. Fraud Prevention Month is an annual public awareness campaign held in March that works to prevent Canadians from becoming victims of fraud by helping them recognize, reject, and report it. This year marks the 13th anniversary of the annual education and awareness campaign that began in 2004 by encouraging Canadians to recognize, reject, and report fraud.
Spearheaded by the Government of Canada through its Competition Bureau, Fraud Prevention Month is a unique effort that brings together over 80 law enforcement agencies, as well as public and private sector organizations. Private sector organizations combatting fraud include law firms and media outlets such as our office (Investigation Counsel PC and CFN).
During the month of March, the Competition Bureau and its partners in the Fraud Prevention Forum carry out numerous activities and host a variety of events to inform Canadians about the impact of fraud and how to protect themselves. For the most part, the Competition Bureau publications target, low quantum consumer type frauds. For example, see Tips to Protect Yourself – http://www.competitionbureau.gc.ca/eic/site/cb-bc.nsf/eng/03662.html.
Through CFN, we provide information and press release services to Canadian on more significant quantum frauds that are generally preventable with the type of due diligence offered through CFN, or more comprehensive due diligence as offered as a legal service through our firm. We urge our readers to report fraud to CFN through the website portal at www.canadianfraudnews.com, or to our law firm.
Coordinating civil recovery prosecutions with criminal complaints, and media press releases, is something most fraud victims should canvas with their fraud recovery lawyers before commencing either process. For further information on having a criminal restitution order enforced as a civil judgment, please contact us.