Police have laid fraud charges against a Mississauga woman who they allege scammed would-be refugees out of thousands of dollars.
Sixty-one-year-old Sakia Mojadiddi, who heads a charity organization called Afghan Refugee Relief, faces three counts of fraud over $5000 and three counts of possession of proceeds obtained by crime. Peel police allege at least three victims paid Mojadiddi for services, but she never processed their paperwork with Citizenship and Immigration Canada, and refused to reimburse the funds, amounting to $40,000.
Police say that since the arrest, at least 10 other alleged victims have come forward from across Canada, the US, and India. One of them is Naseer Ahmed, who claims he paid Mojadiddi nearly $15,000 back in 2011 for him and his wife to immigrate to Canada from India, after fleeing violence in Afghanistan.
Ahmed provided CityNews with a receipt from the Afghan Refugee Relief organization for the first payment he made of $8,000, dated November 10, 2011 and signed by Mojadiddi.
“First she said it would be three years, then four years, then by the fifth year, all the time she was giving us a new excuse,” Ahmed told CityNews in a Skype interview from New Delhi. “She said there is a rush, then she said the case was moved to the Canadian embassy in UK.”
Ahmed says that’s when he decided to go to the High Commissioner of Canada in New Delhi, and discovered that his application had never been filed.
Police say sentencing in fraud cases could require those convicted to pay restitution to their victims. But restitution isn’t Ahmed’s main concern.
“It’s not about money anymore,” he says. “It’s about my six years she wasted. How can I get that back?”
CityNews asked Citizenship and Immigration Canada whether victims defrauded by Canadian criminals would receive special consideration when they submit their applications. The department didn’t answer that question, but did advise that legitimate immigration consultants are regulated by either the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council, provincial law societies, or Quebec’s notary council. You can check on a consultant’s status via this government webpage.However, the rules only cover for-profit immigration consultants.
One legal expert says restitution is little comfort to those still hoping to immigrate to Canada.
“They’re going to have to start from ground zero,” says immigration lawyer Joel Sandaluk. “The people outside of Canada, in Afghanistan, desperate to come to Canada and find some kind of safety, are no further than they were years ago when the application was first supposed to have been filed.”