Ontario man who defrauded Bridgewater out of almost $500K gets 3 years in prison
Ayoola Ajibade posed as construction company executive in fraud
An Uber driver from Ontario who defrauded the Town of Bridgewater, N.S., out of nearly $500,000 was sentenced Thursday to three years in prison.
Prosecutor Keavin-Mathieu Gallant Finnerty said in a statement the Crown got the sentence it was seeking for Ayoola Ajibade, 53. He noted the maximum sentence for an offence of this nature is 14 years.
"This fraudulent act put the entire community at risk of significant financial deprivation," Finnerty wrote.
He added the sentence from Bridgewater provincial court Judge Paul Scovil "communicates the penalty clearly outweighs any benefit or financial reward an offender or like-minded person may obtain from the fraud."
The fraud stemmed from October 2019 when Ajibade posed as an executive with Dexter Construction and requested forms from the town to allow the Bedford, N.S.-based company to receive payment via electronic transfer rather than cheque. He had no connection to Dexter, which does work for the town.
At the time, the town was recommending its vendors switch from being paid by cheque to electronic funds transfer, so the request didn't seem unusual.
After Bridgewater received an invoice from Dexter Construction for legitimate work, it wired a payment of $490,930.43 in early November into a Scotiabank account in Brampton, Ont., that belonged to Ajibade.
It would be another six weeks before the town learned of the fraud.
The town also wired payments of $226,583.41 and $17,040.75 to Ajibade's account in mid-December, but the payments were rejected by Scotiabank.
Scovil noted during sentencing that a pre-sentence report found Ajibade had a positive work history and no prior criminal record. He said Ajibade is a Nigerian immigrant who obtained Canadian citizenship, and has good support in his local community.
Ajibade apologized in court Thursday for the fraud. The judge said he seemed remorseful.
How the town got the money back
The town spent almost eight months trying to recoup the $490,930.43 and had to get a court order in August 2020 forcing Scotiabank to return the money.
Documents previously obtained by CBC News through an access-to-information request reveal the town spent an estimated $5,000 on legal fees to resolve the matter.
The criminal case went to trial in August 2021, and Ajibade was convicted in January of this year.
Frustration with Scotiabank
Emails obtained by CBC News show the frustration town officials felt because of perceived inaction by Scotiabank.
"It's frustrating that we can't get costs or damages though, given that we've incurred legal costs and they've had our money for all these months," Dawn Keizer, the town's director of finance, wrote in a May 22, 2020, email to two town officials and the outside lawyer the town had hired.
"Disappointing that they wouldn't at least offer to pay interest on our money."
The town was also unhappy with the media coverage when Ajibade was found guilty.
A Jan. 11, 2022, email from Mayor David Mitchell noted that "people think we were easily duped." He called it "a sophisticated scheme" and noted, "Because the [CBC] article says he was just an Uber driver, people think he just called and asked for $500,000."
The town said it has strengthened its internal controls.
"Fraud is being constantly attempted on municipalities and provincial and federal governments, daily," Mitchell told CBC News last month. "And in this case, one slipped through. But we've learned from it, we've changed the processes and it's not going to happen again."