The alleged ringleader of a $12 million mortgage fraud involving 22 Calgary properties was ordered to stand trial last week on more than a dozen charges.
Ali El-Sayed, 32, consented to being committed for trial after provincial court Judge Harry Van Harten heard just one week of evidence called by Crown prosecutor Brian Kiers in the scheduled four-week preliminary hearing.
El-Sayed was charged last August in what police said at the time was the latest large-scale mortgage fraud in the Calgary area uncovered by police, one in which none of the money pocketed by the culprits has been recovered.
Provincial registry documents list El-Sayed as the sole director and shareholder of a Calgary company known as Ramses Holdings Inc.
El-Sayed initially faced 23 counts of fraud over $5,000 and one count of extortion.
He is free on bail and must abide by several court-ordered conditions, including surrendering his passport and not having any contact with two co-accused and 14 witnesses.
The suspects are accused of using 14 friends and acquaintances to obtain fraudulent loans from eight financial institutions between 2006 and 2009.
The so-called straw buyers were able to obtain mortgages that far exceeded the value of the properties for sale using inflated home appraisals manufactured by the suspects, police said.
In almost every case, the mortgage amounts listed in court documents far exceeded the property values in the 2010 municipal assessment rolls.
The extortion charge stems from an alleged attempt to get a straw buyer to assume one of the fraudulent mortgages.
Police say the straw buyers were paid between $3,000 and $5,000 for allowing their names to be put on the mortgage, with the suspects promising to assume responsibility for the loan several months down the road.
The scheme was then allegedly pitched to them as an investment opportunity.
Instead, the perpetrators stopped making mortgage payments and took whatever remained of the loan, leaving the straw buyers responsible for the outstanding amount.
Authorities said the case is not related to an alleged $120-million mortgage fraud that is the subject of a lawsuit launched by the Bank of Montreal. The bank named hundreds of respondents in its suit, which claims it lost $30 million in a series of fraudulent transactions involving 200 properties across the province.
The RCMP and city police later launched a criminal investigation into the allegations raised by BMO’s civil suit.
El-Sayed will be in Court of Queen’s Bench with his lawyer John James on Sept. 17, to set a date for trial.
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