Former SISO boss Morteza Jafarpour charged in $4m fraud

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Moreza Jafarpour

John Burman – March 15 2012

Morteza Jafarpour, executive director of the now-defunct Settlement and Integration Services Organization in Hamilton, has been charged with defrauding the federal government of more than $4 million between 2008 and 2010.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Hamilton Niagara commercial crime section charged Jafarpour, 52, of Ottawa and Ahmed Robert Salama, 39, of Oakville, Wednesday following a 15-month investigation with Hamilton police.

Moreza Jafarpour
Former SISO executive director Morteza Jafarpour and staffer Ahmed Robert Salama have been charged with defrauding Ottawa or more than $4 million.

An RCMP spokesperson said Thursday morning Canada-wide warrants have been taken out for both men. They were not in custody as of 11 a.m.

The RCMP alleges the two men used SISO, a registered charitable organization, to defraud the government.

SISO was funded primarily by Citizenship and Immigration Canada and had several offices in Hamilton. SISO provided settlement assistance and other services to newcomers to Canada. SISO closed its doors following its bankruptcy in January 2011, after its funding was pulled last fall resulting in a temporary loss of some services and 156 jobs in the Hamilton area.

The services SISO operated were eventually parceled out to other agencies in the city.

An RCMP spokesperson said Thursday the investigation involved in-depth forensic work which revealed a sophisticated series of schemes spanning several years.

The RCMP says the allegations, involved alleged falsified invoices, payroll and employee information.

Police estimate that between 2008 and 2010, CIC was defrauded of in excess of $4 million.

The RCMP said Jafarpour and Salama have been charged with knowingly using forged documents, fraud over $,5000, theft over $5,000 and conspiracy to commit fraud over $5,000.

The loss, said RCMP Inspector Steve Martin, officer in charge of the Hamilton Niagara detachment, is serious.

“Not only did this organization, and its over 150 employees, have an impact on our community as a whole, but the individuals behind this alleged fraud have deprived newcomers to Canada of important and vital services,” he said.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada notified SISO on Sept. 23, 2011, that it would not renew its funding for the agency’s host program, immigrant settlement and adaptation program (ISAP), youth host program and youth ISAP.

Contribution agreements for those four programs expired at the end of September, but SISO was given until the end of the year to make the transition.

The decision was made “as a result of concerns identified through activity and financial monitoring and subsequent financial audits,” Tasneem Yahya, spokesperson for the Ontario CIC office, said in an e-mail at the time.

The department had met with SISO five times last year to discuss “issues of financial accountability and documentation, insufficient internal management controls and poor communication with the department,” but performance didn’t improve, Yahya wrote.

The months that followed CIC pulling the funding were filled with controversy for SISO including an audit that found $1.6 million in questionable claims and expenses, bankruptcy and eventually the closure of SISO.

Jafarpour, who subsequently moved his family to Ottawa where he is general manager of a business, was charged with uttering a death threat to a manager at SISO. The charge was eventually withdrawn in court.

Original article on Hamilton Spectator website

Comments

The charges just laid by the RCMP are the result of a determined effort by a small team of SISO managers to expose misconduct by their bosses. By working together, compiling a mass of compelling evidence, and then sharing it with a trusted police force, they were able to trigger a successful 15-month investigation. They also contacted FAIR at a very early stage for information and advice.

There's a trial still to come, but the whistleblowers are delighted with the outcome thus far and full of praise for the officers that they dealt with from the RCMP and Hamilton Police.

This is a notable example of how 'official channels' can work when competent and trustworthy agencies make proper use of information from honest employees. Regrettably, successes like this one seem rare: in most of the cases that we learn about, the cover-up is successful and the whistleblowers are crushed and silenced. The outcome in Hamilton might have been very different if the alleged wrongdoers had been well-connnected members of the establishment.

As it is, the people of Hamilton have paid a high price, with needy immigrants being denied vital services and 150 SISO employees losing their jobs when the charity collapsed. If only proper laws existed in Canada to protect whistleblowers, they might have been able to act earlier and to stop the misconduct while there was still time to save SISO.

David Hutton

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