Edmonton

Victims of immigration scam stuck in limbo

Many of the Polish workers at the centre of an alleged Alberta immigration scam are in limbo, according to the lawyer representing them.

Many of the Polish workers at the centre of an alleged Alberta immigration scam are in limbo, according to the lawyer representing them.

Ukrainian Orthodox priest John Lipinski of St. Paul, Alta., along with his wife Angela and business partner Calvin Steinhauer, are facing charges for allegedly bringing dozens of workers into the province under false pretenses for profit.

"Their entry visas into Canada weren't as they thought they were," said lawyer Sol Rolinger.

"Appreciate that these people don't speak or read English, so they were very much at the behest of others who were looking after them but didn't quite do so in the right way."

Rolinger said many of the Polish workers don't know if they can stay in Canada, while others have already left.

"Their inability to know where they're working, their actual status here  — and after a while it grinds on people and many went back home because they didn't know if they had the ability to stay in the long haul."

Rolinger said the workers didn't know anything was wrong until months after arriving in Canada. He said they informed the RCMP when they learned of the alleged scam.

Police allege the workers were unwittingly brought into Alberta on student visas, but ended up working for Lipinski's company and getting shortchanged in their pay. The accused allegedly ran a company that lured dozens of Polish welders and machinists to Canada under false pretenses, pocketing $1 million in profits in just six months.

The three face charges of organizing entry to Canada by threat, deception or fraud under the Immigration Refugee Protection Act as well a criminal charge under the proceeds of crime section.

Lipinski has been suspended as a priest until the case is resolved in provincial court. The lawyer representing the Lipinskis said they deny the allegations.

All three people charged are to make a first appearance July 25 in an Edmonton courtroom.

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