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EPS investigation identifies purchase order scam targeting PPE and industrial equipment companies across the globe

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EPS investigation identifies purchase order scam targeting PPE and industrial equipment companies across the globe

April 30, 2020
A comprehensive investigation undertaken by the EPS Economic Crimes Section has helped several Canadian and American companies recover more than $1.5M of industrial and personal protective equipment (PPE) fraudulently ordered by suspects with connections to Nigeria.

The online scheme targeting PPE, industrial and electronic equipment companies in Canada, the United States and Australia, has seen the suspects impersonating various commercial companies, including “Clean Harbors”, a large North American environmental, energy and industrial service provider. The suspects would then contact various suppliers using altered emails, the names of associated company executives and illegally obtained credit reference information to fraudulently obtain shipments of various equipment including the highly sought-after N95 masks. The equipment was then shipped to warehouses across Canada and the United States by the suspects, who are believed to be operating from Nigeria and London, UK.

It is alleged that the suspects would then coordinate an online pick-up from a courier company using compromised courier accounts, and have the shipment delivered to England, where it was then moved to companies with exporting connections to Nigeria.

“Many companies around the world are dealing with various challenges right now just trying to financially stay afloat during this pandemic,” stated Det. Jason Lapointe, of the EPS Economic Crimes Section. “Then they find themselves under attack by criminals from abroad that are attempting to fraudulently acquire various equipment, including PPE, destined to help those who are in desperate need of it. It’s unconscionable really.”

In mid-March, ECS investigators received information that a Leduc company had been targeted. The local electronics company had received a purchase order worth approximately $18,000 for two-way radios. The order was initially placed by email through Clean Harbors, a vendor known to the local company through previous business transactions.

It was reported to police that the Leduc equipment company then received a subsequent email supposedly from Clean Harbors requesting that the shipment of two-way radios be re-directed to a location in Calgary. Representatives with the local company became suspicious and contacted Clean Harbors to clarify the situation, which confirmed their suspicions that they were being defrauded by someone impersonating an executive with Clean Harbors. As a result, representatives from the Leduc company were able to stop the shipment from being delivered.

In early April, an Edmonton telecommunications equipment supplier fell victim to this scam after a shipment of equipment worth $170,000 was sent to a storage facility in the UK.  EPS Economic Crimes Section prevented another $130,000 shipment of equipment made by this same Edmonton company from reaching its final destination, after it was located at a shipment center in Ontario

As an example of this scam’s impact on the current COVID-19 crisis, these same suspects placed orders through two Canadian corporations situated in Quebec and B.C. for $100,000 worth of personal respirators and replacement N95 3M filters.  These shipments were located at separate loading facilities, and EPS Economic Crimes Section investigators facilitated the return of these shipments to the respective companies.

The EPS Economic Crimes Section is urging businesses to remain vigilant when dealing with potential clients online.

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Alberta

‘I am sorry’: Man convicted in stabbing of Calgary chef apologizes at sentencing

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By Bill Graveland in Calgary

A man convicted of killing a chef apologized Monday and expressed dismay that no one with the victim’s family was in court to to hear it.

Tommie Holloway was convicted of manslaughter while his accomplice, Anthony Dodgson, was found guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Christophe Herblin.

Herblin was stabbed to death in a parking lot outside his soon-to-be opened Calgary café following a break-in in 2020.

Holloway, 33, told his sentencing hearing that he hoped his words would get through to Herblin’s wife, who wrote in a victim impact statement last December that the killing had left her broken and struggling “to make sense of this tragedy.”

“It got to me. Got me emotional,” said Holloway.

“I just wish they were here today so I could look at them eye-to-eye, apologize for my actions. I know no amount of words that I’m going to say is going to bring back their loved one, but I do want them to know that I am sorry.”

The Crown has recommended Holloway serve 12 years in prison. Defence lawyer Kim Ross said his client had no previous criminal record, has made efforts to turn his life around and should serve three to five years.

“I’m not standing here saying that imprisonment is not appropriate here. The issue is how long,” Ross told Court of King’s Bench Justice Blair Nixon.

“Mr. Holloway has clearly learned his lesson … and I submit with some degree of confidence that this court will never see Mr. Holloway back here again.”

Herblin was a longtime executive sous chef at the Glencoe Golf and Country Club, and his new restaurant was weeks away from opening.

Court heard Dodgson and Holloway broke into the restaurant with plans to get through a wall into an adjacent cannabis shop. They fled when a car drove by and returned later to continue their robbery attempt but became frustrated as Herblin had showed up.

Holloway smashed Herblin’s car windows in order to lure him into the parking lot. Dodgson attacked him and stabbed him nine times.

Herblin staggered to a nearby gas station for help and died shortly after police officers came to his aid.

Ross said Holloway had no knowledge of what was going to happen and immediately ran off after smashing out the car’s windows.

“Mr. Holloway at that point did not know what had happened. He did not know that Mr. Herblin was in the state that he was in and that he had gone to the Shell looking for help,” Ross said.

“He was leaving the scene of a possible break and enter. Certainly at the time of his leaving he did not know.”

Dodgson receives an automatic life sentence for the murder conviction. When the sentencing hearing began for both men in December, the Crown argued that Dodgson should not be eligible for parole for 15 to18 years. His lawyer asked for a range of 10 to 12 years.

The judge is scheduled to deliver his sentence for Holloway and Dodgson on Feb. 24.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 6, 2023.

This is a corrected story. A previous version said lawyers were recommending the time Holloway should serve before he is eligible for parole.

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Crime

Boy who shot teacher allegedly tried to choke another

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By Denise Lavoie And Ben Finley in Richmond

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A 6-year-old Virginia boy who shot and wounded his first-grade teacher constantly cursed at staff and teachers, chased students around and tried to whip them with his belt and once choked another teacher “until she couldn’t breathe,” according to a legal notice filed by an attorney for the wounded teacher.

The incidents were described in a notice sent to the Newport News school district by Diane Toscano, an attorney for teacher Abby Zwerner, informing the district that Zwerner intends to sue. The notice of claim, which was obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request, outlines prior behavioral issues the boy had at Richneck Elementary School and troubling interactions he had with teachers and students.

Two days before the shooting, the boy allegedly “slammed” Zwerner’s cellphone and broke it, according to the claim notice. He was given a one-day suspension, but when he returned to Zwerner’s class the following day, he pulled a 9mm handgun out of his pocket and shot her while she sat at a reading table, the notice says.

The notice elaborates on allegations Toscano outlined last month during a news conference.

The document says that several hours before the shooting, at least three teachers and staff members warned school administrators that they believed the boy had brought a gun to school. The boy’s backpack was searched, but no gun was found, and administrators did not remove the boy from class, lock down the school or call police.

The claim notice says that Zwerner went to former Assistant Principal Ebony Parker’s office at about 11:15 a.m. that day “to advise her that the shooter seemed more ‘off’ than usual and was in a violent mood.” It also says the boy had threatened to beat up a kindergarten student and “angrily stared down” the school security officer in the lunch room.

The document describes several more warnings that Parker was allegedly given by staff about the boy having a gun. “Assistant Principal Parker should have called police, instead she did not follow proper protocol and chose to do absolutely nothing,” the claim notice states.

Parker, who resigned from her position last month, could not immediately be reached for comment. A spokeswoman for the school district said she did not know if Parker has retained an attorney.

Len Wallin, director of legal services for the school system, said in an email that it’s standard practice for the school division to forward notices of intent to sue to its insurer, which handles such litigation.

Wallin said the district’s insurer will handle decisions regarding whether it will represent Parker or not “after consultation with the school board, if that is necessary.”

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