Former Calgary man sentenced to 11 years in jail and fined $550,892 for tax evasion and fraud

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) announced that James Harvey Cameron, a former resident of Calgary, has been sentenced to 11 years in jail and fined $550,892 after defrauding investors of over $2.5 million through a deceptive investment scheme. The judge also ordered Cameron, 66, to pay restitution of $1,831,700 to his victims.

If Mr. Cameron fails to pay his fine in six months he will have to serve an additional four years in jail for default.

From 2002-2006, Cameron operated a fraudulent RRSP scheme which promised a 2% monthly return to individual investors. The scheme raised just under $8 million, but only paid out a total of $882,000 to investors.  Cameron misappropriated the funds to support his luxurious lifestyle, including buying property, cars, a horse, and a $75,000 cruise in the Bahamas. He also transferred funds offshore to Barbados.

A Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) investigation proved that Cameron diverted $3.9 million of the investors’ funds for his own use and failed to report this as income on his tax returns, evading $1,132,882 in taxes.

“I have no doubt whatsoever that [Cameron] executed a deceptive investment scheme with subjective knowledge of the prohibited act and consequences,” said presiding judge, Justice P.R. Jeffrey, in his written reasons for convicting Cameron. “The CRA acted towards him with considerable patience, forbearance and fairness.  He was given ample opportunity to provide to CRA any plausible alternate explanation for what occurred, yet did not.”

Justice Jeffrey commented in his sentencing report: “The $1,831,700 I have ordered payable in restitution should be subtracted from his [Cameron] total taxable income… therefore I find his taxable income to have been $2,118,817.”

Cameron was convicted of tax evasion under the Income Tax Act and fraud under the Criminal Code.

Sentencing took place today at the Court of Queen’s Bench in Calgary.

You can report suspected tax evasion to the CRA by visiting https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/programs/about-canada-revenue-agency-cra/informant-leads-program.html or by calling the National Leads Centre at 1-866-809-6841.

All case-specific information in this news release was obtained from the court records.

Did you know that between April 1, 2012, and March 31, 2017, total domestic and offshore related criminal investigations have resulted in 408 convictions involving $122 million in federal tax evaded and court sentences totaling approximately $44 million in court fines and 3,103 months in jail?

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CRA Announces Conviction: Seeking Victim Impact Statements by April 20th.

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has announced that James Harvey Cameron, from Calgary, was criminally convicted on March 28th of creating and operating a fraudulent RRSP scheme.

According to court documents, from 2002 to 2006, Cameron was the master-mind behind a fraudulent RRSP scheme through which he diverted $2.5 million of investors’ funds for his own use. He also failed to report the money as taxable income, evading federal taxes totalling $673,871.

The CRA considers these offenses serious, and the courts found Cameron guilty of tax evasion and fraud.

A date for a sentencing hearing has yet to be set, but is likely to take place between April 24 and May 12, 2017.

The CRA is encouraging victims of Cameron’s fraud who wish to appear at the sentencing hearing to seek restitution or make a victim impact statement to contact the Public Prosecution Service of Canada at 403-299-3978 by April 20th.

How To Avoid The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) Phone Scam

As a former Canada Revenue Agency Business Collections employee – almost 11-years – from collector to Resource Officer and Manager, I understand the fear people have when they receive calls from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

I also understand how scary it is when someone calls you, or leaves a recorded message for you, claiming to be from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), and demanding payment with threats of jail or immediate legal actions. I’ve been called as have many of my clients.

With a little knowledge and understanding of the CRA and the people who work there, I am going to list 10 signs that every Canadian needs to be made aware of in order to not be caught up in this scheme.

10 Facts Every Canadian NEEDS to Know About the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)

 

10. Yelling and Screaming are NOT permitted, nor tolerated.

Regardless of what you have heard or experienced, the people who work in the Canada Revenue Agency are everyday people like you and I. If we yelled and screamed at our “client base” we would be disciplined or fired. They are no different.

9. Threats are NOT allowed.

The staff at the CRA will not threaten you with jail time, to send in the Sheriff, have you deported or to take every penny that you have.  Even is the call is not a scam you do not have to tolerate any threats from anyone at the CRA.

If you have been evading the paying of taxes, you already know that you could be charged and that jail time is possible. Any other type of collection action usually comes with pre-warning by a letter, Notice of Assessment or is started once you file / pay your taxes.

The CRA will not seize your principal residence!  Your cottage, rental properties, maybe, but house you and your kids live in… No.

8.  The Element of Surprise

If the call catches you by surprise, AND the person on the end of the phone is screaming at you, threatening to take your

7. Ask Questions.

In the instance you get a live person on the phone and they are trying to give you a hard time and force you to pay money, turn the conversation back to them and ask lots of questions. Ask them what the account number / social insurance number is, what periods or years the debt relates to (the debt they want you to pay). Ask them for a break-down of the total tax owing and the amount of penalties and interest – either the total amount or broken down by period or year. (They have this at their finger tips). Ask them what Tax Office they are calling from, and what the address and phone number is at that office. Ask them to send you a remittance voucher so that you can make that payment at the bank.

6. Defer

Tell them that while you would love to speak to them, you have an accountant who handles all your tax information and you would like to take down their information so your representative can call them back.

5. Do NOT Agree to Pay anything over the phone!

This rule applies not only to the CRA but to anyone else who ever calls your home / phone asking for money. Never, ever make a payment over the phone with your credit card.

4. Receipt Please!

If you are self-employed, you understand the importance of getting and keeping receipts.  Why would you buy a pre-paid gift card or charge card to send to some stranger who is not going to give you a receipt for payment?

You wouldn’t.

The CRA has recently allowed payment of some taxes by credit / debit card.  They will likely NEVER accept payment via gift cards, etc.

3. If you get such a call, hang up and report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre can be found online at http://www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca or toll free at 1-888-495-8501.

If you believe you may be the victim of fraud or have given personal or financial information unwittingly, contact your local police service.

2.  Confirm, Confirm, Confirm.

If you want to confirm the authenticity of a CRA telephone number, call the CRA by using the numbers on its Telephone numbers page. The number for business-related calls is 1-800-959-5525. The number for calls about individual concerns is 1-800-959-8281

1.  The CRA NEVER…

Requests prepaid credit cards;

Asks for information about your passport, health card, or driver’s licence;

Leaves personal information on your answering machine!

Asks you to leave a message containing your personal information on an answering machine.

Emails seeking information or asking for payment.

 

 

So when in doubt, ask yourself the following questions:

Is there a reason that the CRA may be calling?

Do I have a tax balance outstanding?

Is the requester asking for information I would not include with my tax return?

Is the requester asking for information I know the CRA already has on file for me?

Are they too mean / demanding / aggressive?

 

It’s always better to defer the conversation than make the mistake of giving information or money to criminals.

CRA Press Release: Tax preparer extradited to Canada (from Italy) for tax fraud in Canada

The following news items was released by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) on September 8, 2015, regarding a former Tax preparer from Vaughan, Ontario, who was convicted of Tax Fraud for adding fictitious deductions to 4,200 tax returns from 2003 – 2005.  She was sentenced to 10-years in jail and fined almost $700,000.

The news release read:

“The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) announced today that Ms. Doreen Tennina was extradited to Canada from Italy on September 4, 2015, and is now in custody serving a 10-year sentence for tax fraud.

On May 31, 2013, Ms. Tennina was found guilty in the Superior Court of Justice in Oshawa, Ontario, on two counts of fraud over $5,000 under the Criminal Code and was sentenced in absentia to the maximum period of 10 years in jail on each count to be served concurrently.  A news release publicizing Ms. Tennina’s conviction and sentence was issued on June 4, 2013.

Ms. Tennina, a former Vaughan, Ontario tax preparer, fraudulently claimed carrying charges and charitable donations totaling $58,500,000 in 4,200 tax returns prepared on behalf of her clients from 2003 to 2005, inclusive. The false claims reduced the amount of federal taxes owed by over $10 million. She was also ordered to pay a fine of $699,608 for causing her company, Executive Accounting, to fail to report income received from the tax evasion scheme.

The preceding information was obtained from the court records.

Taxpayers who claim false expenses, credits or rebates from the government are subject to serious consequences. They are liable not only for corrections to their tax returns and payment of the full amount of tax owing, but also to penalties and interest. In addition, if convicted of tax evasion, the court may impose jail time and fine them up to 200% of the tax evaded.”

Remember, taxpayers who have not filed returns for previous years, or who have not reported all of their income, can still voluntarily correct their tax affairs if the CRA has not contacted them first for the returns.  If applicable, the Voluntary Disclosure Program (VDP) allows for filing / amended filing without penalty or prosecution provided the disclosure is full and complete.  These taxpayers may only have to pay the taxes owing, plus interest.

More information on the Voluntary Disclosures Program (VDP) can be found on the CRA’s website at www.cra.gc.ca/voluntarydisclosures.

A link to the news release is below;

Milowe Brost, Convicted of Theft and Fraud. Ordered to pay $390,878 in Evaded Taxes to CRA.

Milowe Brost, recently convicted of theft and fraud ordered to pay $390,878 in evaded taxes.

Another example of how a Ponzi scheme can result in a long-prison sentence and huge fine.

Unfortunately, the “victims” here are the people who took part in this scheme because they still owe taxes plus gross negligence penalties (50%) plus the CRA and the Courts have long considered people who partake in these scams and schemes to have done so knowingly and with full understanding they they are illegal.

 

Your Questions Answered About The CRA’s Informant Leads (Snitch) Line

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has employed the Informant Leads Line, or “Snitch Line” for a very long time, and with incredible results. Only recently has it been getting a lot of attention in the media. The line has been so successful that the CRA (Canada Revenue Agency) is reducing their workforce – specifically related to investigations – because they get more detailed information through tipsters than they would if they had employees trying to locate this information.

Who uses this line? Still ex-wives and ex-husbands, former business partners and neighbours who have been confided in and either felt compelled to notify the government of the fraud being committed or who were hurt, harmed or cheated by the person who has been committing the fraud and who used this line as their way to ”get even”.

It is important to know should you decide to call the Canada Revenue Agency’s Informant Leads Line that the CRA takes your privacy VERY seriously and they will never notify the person(s) / organization(s) that you call on that it was you who called their line.

The CRA will cite their “Privacy Notice”, meaning that they regularly collect personal information under the authority of the Income Tax Act (ITA) and the Excise Tax Act (ETA) and they will use that information as the justification for following up on information provided by callers to the Informant Leads Line to determine if there is an element of non-compliance with tax legislation, and if applicable provided to the corresponding compliance program for appropriate enforcement action.

Information provided on this line may also be referred to the Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) or Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC), in the event that the lead relates to one of the programs they administer.

The information provided is voluntary and will not affect any dealings you may have with the Government of Canada / Revenue Canada.

Here are some answers to the most common questions asked of me, relating to the Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA) Informant Leads / Snitch Line, starting with:

1) When should I call the CRA’s Informant Leads Line:

When there is “Tax Evasion”, which is an illegal practice where a person or business avoids paying taxes or reduces their taxes by misrepresenting their activities.

2) How can I report tax evasion?

Over the Internet (I have linked the CRA page and provided it here in case you’re nervous about clicking the link)

Link: http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/gncy/nvstgtns/lds/menu-eng.html#ntrnt

By phone, mail or fax

Phone: 1-866-809-6841 (toll free)

Fax: 1-888-724-4829 (toll free)

Office hours: 8:15 am. to 5:45 pm. (Eastern Time).

Mailing address:

National Leads Centre

Business Intelligence & Quality Assurance Division

Canada Revenue Agency

200 Town Centre Court Scarborough ON M1P 4Y3

3) Some examples of tax evasion are:

  • not reporting all income
  • claiming deductions for expenses that were not incurred or are not legally deductible
  • claiming false GST/HST tax credits
  • failing to remit source deductions
  • providing false information on marital status or children to obtain benefits and credits

4) What happens to the information provided to the CRA?

The CRA diarizes everything and determines if they need to take immediate enforcement action or if they need additional information before moving forward. Either way, you will never be notified as to whether or whether not the CRA took action as they are prohibited from doing so under section 241 of the ITA and section 295 of the ETA.

5) Does the CRA pay for the information I provide?

No. The CRA does not pay for information received from informants. The CRA does now have the Offshore Tax Informant Program (OTIP) which offers financial awards to individuals with information about major cases of international tax non-compliance resulting in more than $100,000 of additional federal tax being assessed and collected. For more information, please visit the OTIP website, including how to make a submission.

6) What do I get for reporting tax fraud?

Well, besides feeling great, you are helping to ensure that all Canadian taxpayers are paying their fair share of taxes and this benefits all Canadians. The CRA will tell you that if everyone pays what they owe taxes might go down… I’m not holding my breath, but you never know.

7) Will the CRA ever reveal who provided the information to them?

Never!  However, you can provide them with consent to release your identity, should you want that person(s) / organization(s) to know. The CRA has a legal obligation not to disclose the identity of informants, any information that might disclose an informant’s identity or even information that might reveal the existence of an informant is removed, even in the case where an Access to Information request is made.

8) How can you send information by email?

You can submit general informant information to the CRA using their secure Internet portal. If you want to provide supporting documentation you are best to mail or fax it.

9) Does the CRA really look at EVERY lead, and take them seriously?

YES.

10) If I submit a lead, then want to revoke it, is there a way to do that?

NO.

11) What stops someone from phoning in a fake lead?

Well, before the CRA is able to take any action, they require more information that just “My ex has a job working for cash.” They would like any or all of the following information to help them prioritize the severity of the tax evasion and whether they need to get more information or get working on it right away, such as:

  • names and contact information for the person(s) / organization(s) you suspect
  • this can include address, phone, email, and so on
  • social insurance number (SIN) / business number (BN)
  • date of birth
  • spouse’s name
  • business name
  • names of shareholders if a corporation is involved
  • related companies
  • type of fraud you suspect:
    • income tax (personal – T1 or corporate – T2)
    • provincial tax (PST)
    • GST/HST
    • non-filing
    • fraudulent refunds
    • Canada Child Tax Benefit (CCTB)
    • Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB)
  • details of your observations
  • documents: have you seen these documents? Do you know where they’re kept?
  • does the person deal in cash only? Do you know what they do with the cash?
  • net worth information, such as assets, including those outside Canada (cash, name and address of banks, house, land, cottage, vehicles, boats, etc.)
  • liabilities (loans, mortgages, credit cards, etc.)
  • personal expenditures (food, housing, trips, restaurants, hobbies, etc.)
  • your name and phone number (this is optional)

The CRA will ask you if they can contact you if they require more information. That is up to you.

If at any point, the CRA determines this information is incorrect, fabricated or provided to them for the purposes of committing fraud, not only will they indicate the details on your permanent diary record, but they will also take actions against you.

Once you have submitted a lead to the CRA, it’s good to have an understanding of the fines and/or penalties which can be levied upon the individual / organization, as they can be as high as 200% of the taxes which were attempted to have been evaded.

In addition, the CRA publishes the results of its prosecution activities on its Convictions Web page.

Of course, if you have found yourself to be in violation of any of these requirements and are worried that the CRA will find out, or that someone will call the snitch line on you, you should contact us and we can begin to discuss the steps to help you which may or may not include the CRA’s Voluntary Disclosure Program.

It is ALWAYS better to get to the CRA before they get to you!

Beware of Fraudulent Communications! The CRA Does NOT Randomly Request Personal Information.

Canada Revenue Agency
Canada Revenue Agency (Photo credit: John Bristowe)

The CRA issued a warning, as the periodically have to do, to make sure that citizens are aware of some scams being committed via email, phone and mail whereby someone is pretending to be the CRA and they are asking for personal information such as a credit card number, social insurance number (SIN), bank information or passport information.

As in EVERY other situation, if someone, anyone asks you for this information, you should NOT be providing it.

If the CRA wants to contact you for information they already know all this information and will not be asking you for it.  Even worse is the fact that the fraudsters are arguing that this personal information is needed so that the taxpayer can receive a refund or benefit payment.

Again, the CRA knows this information and if you are eligible for a program or benefit, they will either enroll you in it automatically or they will send you a letter asking you to call the CRA general enquiries line.

Another common scam refers the person to a Web site resembling the CRA’s Web site where the person is asked to verify their identity by entering  personal information.

Again, this is not true.  The CRA website is http://www.cra.gc.ca where the “gc” stands for “government Canada” and the “ca” represents that the website is Canadian.  If the fraudster persists, please hang up and call the general enquiries line to confirm or call the RCMP (details below).

So just to confirm, and this is from the CRA website;

The CRA does not do the following:

  • The CRA will not request personal information of any kind from a taxpayer by email.
  • The CRA will not divulge taxpayer information to another person unless formal authorization is provided by the taxpayer.
  • The CRA will not leave any personal information on an answering machine.

When in doubt, ask yourself the following:

  • Am I expecting additional money from the CRA?
  • Does this sound too good to be true?
  • Is the requester asking for information I would not include with my tax return?
  • Is the requester asking for information I know the CRA already has on file for me?
  • How did the requester get my email address?
  • Am I confident I know who is asking for the information?

The CRA will continue to post notifications of fraudulent communications as they become aware of them and encourages you to check their Web site should you have concerns.

Examples You will find examples of a fraudulent letter, emails, and online refund forms from the CRA’s website in the links provided.  Notice how shoddy and unprofessional the request are.  As per telephone calls, the CRA will occasionally leave messages for taxpayers on their answering machines, including a callback number, and a request for the taxpayer to have their SIN handy when they call, however, it is important to note that not all telephone messages claiming to be from the CRA are genuine.  If you have any doubt and wish to verify the authenticity of a CRA telephone number, agent name, or location. you should contact the CRA directly by using the numbers on our Telephone numbers page.  For business-related calls, contact 1-800-959-5525 and for individual concerns, contact 1-800-959-8281.

If you have responded to a fraudulent communication and have become a victim of fraud, please contact the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre by email at info@antifraudcentre.ca or call 1-888-495-8501.

Be careful when giving out personal information to anyone regardless of where they claim to work.  The CRA won’t get offended.  They’ll try again a different way if necessary.