TORONTO — A guilty plea from a lawyer who had fled the country gave investigators the information they needed to lay charges against four men in a $17 million alleged mortgage fraud involving high-end Toronto properties, police said Tuesday.
The men, who are all from the Toronto area and between the ages of 45 and 53, face charges including fraud, conspiracy, forgery and money laundering, police said.
Police allege the men took part in a "sophisticated and complex" scheme involving "several high-end properties."
Lawyer Golnaz Vakili's flight from Canada in March 2013 was the reason it took five years to bring charges against the men, said Det. Alan Fazeli.
"She was the lawyer that was registering a lot of these things," Fazeli said. "She was a missing piece."
Vakili has since pleaded guilty to charges related to facilitating the frauds, he said.
Fazeli said numerous different methods were used in the alleged frauds, many of which involved properties in Toronto's upscale Bridle Path area.
"One of the methods that was used was fake individuals and shell companies had taken mortgages on some of these properties, and for all of them they had produced fake insurance and title insurance," he said.
Police would not say how many properties were involved in the alleged scheme.
Law Society of Upper Canada documents say Vakili "participated in a massive fraud spree and multiple dishonest acts involving 13 different properties over a two-year period" beginning in 2011.
"She prepared and acted upon fake documents in support of other clearly fraudulent transactions," a Law society hearing document states. "She repeatedly lied to her clients. She gave false testimony before the Deputy Director of Land Titles. Her clients lost just under $14 million as a result of her activities."
Police said the four men — two from Toronto and two from Richmond Hill, Ont. — were arrested and charged last month.
The Canadian Press