'Protect your wallet and your heart,' warns woman after finding Ontario beau's romance scam links
Woman hires private detective, uncovers outstanding charges against ex-boyfriend from Waterloo region
A man from Waterloo region in Ontario who was found guilty of scamming multiple women out of over a reported $150,000 some 15 years ago is once again facing fraud charges — after one of his former flames took the investigation into her own hands.
In 2006, Jivesh Jagota was dubbed the Online Casanova and convicted of defrauding a dozen local women, according to the Waterloo Region Record newspaper.
The crimes followed a similar pattern: Jagota would meet women on the dating site Plenty of Fish and reportedly bilk them out of thousands, often while pretending to be a lawyer, medical resident or university student, the newspaper said.
At the time, he was given a three-year sentence.
Today, Jagota is in legal hot water for allegedly defrauding a Woodstock woman of $6,800 in 2015.
Woodstock police confirmed they received a fraud report in April 2016 and arrested Jagota roughly six years later, in January 2022.
Why the long lag?
A woman named Anna, who dated Jagota between March 2019 and April 2020, says she pushed police to enforce the longstanding warrant after she hired a private investigator who discovered the outstanding charges against him. CBC News is keeping Anna's full name confidential over safety concerns.
"I want him to be accountable," she said.
Jagota's lawyer, Nick Cake, told CBC his client "recently became aware" of an outstanding warrant for his arrest. Jagota was "released from the station by the officer in charge after turning himself in," Cake said in an email.
"The matter is actively moving through court and any comments about the facts alleged would not be appropriate at this time," Cake said in an email.
None of the latest allegations have been proven in court.
A lawyer named 'Jay'
Anna said she, too, was a victim of Jagota's — though she knew him as a lawyer named Jay Singh. They connected on Plenty of Fish, met for coffee and immediately hit it off, she said.
"Things moved really quickly," said Anna. "I think he told me he loved me probably the third date, and I believed him."
While they were together, Anna said she gave him about $9,550, thinking he was using the money to build his legal practice, prepare his home for sale and buy her an engagement ring. She thought they were building a life together, she said.
But by January 2020, Anna realized something was up. They never spent long weekends or holidays together. When she searched the Law Society of Ontario website, she couldn't find him.
By April, Anna called it quits. She told Jay, as he referred to himself, not to contact her except to pay the money back.
Still, she couldn't let the situation go.
"He wasn't just anybody to me — I had planned a life with this man," she said.
"There was something saying, 'You know what? There's something more to this whole situation.'"
So Anna dug deeper. She hired a private investigator who looked up Jay's phone number, which turned up an address and the last name Jagota.
When she Googled it — she found an old column in the University of Waterloo student newspaper that cited the Record's 2006 reporting.
"[It] basically outlined a scam that that was similar to the one that that I had experienced," she said.
'We were duped'
Soon after, Anna found a profile on Plenty of Fish with a photo of her former boyfriend. But it wasn't his profile – it was a warning telling other women not to date him.
Through that profile, she connected with other women who had all dated the same man they now believe was Jagota, but was using various identities. Two of them told CBC they met him on Plenty of Fish while he used the name Robert Rhio Singh.
Together, the group of women hired a second private investigator, who uncovered the outstanding warrant in Woodstock for the alleged 2015 fraud. Using social media, the women managed to figure out where Jagota was living and reported him to police in both Hamilton — where he was staying — and Woodstock, Anna said.
Asked about the situation, a Hamilton police spokesperson confirmed investigators in Woodstock asked for the service's help with an outstanding warrant. They executed the warrant Jan. 5, 2022, the spokesperson said.
Civil action underway
Today, Anna has recovered some of the money she says she gave Jagota, but is suing to recover the rest he allegedly owes her.
Her statement of claim, filed April 9, 2021, said that after their breakup, Jagota sent Anna six money orders for a total of $4,098, but that she was still owed $5,473, plus bank withdrawal fees. She is also seeking damages.
In a statement of defence, Jagota said he only accepted a loan of $5,500 from Anna, which he has since paid back in full. The statement acknowledges Jagota and Anna did meet online and he used the name Jay Singh, but that this was for "profession[al] concerns over privacy."
The statement of defence also says the relationship between Jagota and Anna was short-lived "without substantial long-term expectations on either side."
CBC KW reached out to Joseph Kazubek, who is representing Jagota in the civil case involving Anna, for comment. He told CBC in an email their position is that Anna's accusation is "inaccurate and meritless," but declined to speak further at the moment.
Romance scams on the rise
Romance scams aren't uncommon, according to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
Between 2019 and 2021, the number of dollars lost to romance scams in Canada more than doubled — from nearly $26.2 million to $64.6 million. This year is on track to be even worse, with $17.8 million lost to romance scams in the first quarter.
Spokesperson Jeff Horncastle said these scams have always existed, but the internet has allowed them to flourish. He said many of the scams occur without any in-person meeting, based on "virtual" friendships.
"I think COVID played a big role as well, where people may have been looking for more companionship online," said Horncastle, the centre's acting communications and client outreach officer.
It's much easier to prevent a scam from happening in the first place than it is to recoup your money after the fact, he said. When dating, he said:
- Don't share personal images online.
- Don't give money to or invest money with someone you've never met.
- Don't accept friend requests from people you don't know.
- Be careful who you share your images with — especially intimate photos.
As for Anna, she feels dating sites need to have better checks and balances. She also cautions women to research anyone they've met online — even after they've met in person.
Consider taking a look at their driver's licence, and calling their work to ensure they're really employed there, she said.
"It sounds harsh, but unfortunately, people can go online [and] pretend to be whoever you want them to be," she said.
"Just be vigilant and stay safe, and protect your wallet and your heart."
Listen to another woman share her story of a romance scam in this segment from the CBC Radio program Out in the Open.