Sask. business people caught up in massive immigration fraud case
Qi Wang and Yujuan Cui accused of paying business people in exchange for job offers for Chinese nationals
Canada Border Services Agency officials used documents found in a garbage bin to begin unravelling what they allege was a sprawling immigration fraud scheme led by a couple from White City, Sask., involving fraudulent job offers, hundreds of Chinese nationals and dozens of Saskatchewan business people.
CBC News has obtained a search warrant application that alleges a wide range of businesses — including a motel in Fort Qu'Appelle, an advertising agency in Estevan and an insurance company in Regina co-owned by the city's former mayor, Doug Archer — were caught up in the scheme.
As part of its investigation, CBSA filed an information to obtain a search warrant (ITO) in March 2014. The agency sought and received authority from the court to access the banking records of Qi Wang and Yujuan Cui, who are accused in the case.
The ITO details peculiar bits of evidence for CBSA's allegations, including an accidentally recorded conversation, a sheet of paper where someone was practising forging a signature, and an email in which the owner of a small computer company expresses surprise when he learns his company was offering jobs to 21 Chinese nationals.
In December 2015, the Crown filed a series of charges against Wang and Cui, accusing the married couple of receiving payments from Chinese nationals seeking permanent residency in Canada in exchange for securing them job-offer letters, often for positions that didn't actually exist.
The Crown also alleges Wang and Cui offered money to legitimate business owners in Saskatchewan in exchange for fraudulent job offers. In some cases, authorities say, the couple simply forged job-offer documents without the business owner's explicit consent.
In a fact summary filed in court, the Crown says CBSA investigators found more than 1,200 names of Chinese nationals in records seized from Wang and Cui's home, with 641 of those names showing up in the federal or provincial immigration system.
Seventy-eight of those people had become permanent residents in Canada.
The Crown alleges the couple "illegally received approximately $600,000 from Chinese nationals" in exchange for job offers and "paid out approximately $95,000 to 17 different Saskatchewan business owners."
CBSA says it's the largest immigration case the agency has investigated in Saskatchewan since it took over responsibility for prosecuting criminal immigration offences from the RCMP in 2006.
In an email, Wang and Cui's lawyer, Aaron Fox, said his clients are not guilty and will prove it at trial.
"They expect that all of the story will come out at that time and that they will be exonerated accordingly."
Though charges were laid 3 ½ years ago, Wang and Cui, who now have an address in Roberts Creek, B.C., are still awaiting trial. A pretrial hearing is set for September.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
From suspicion to dumpster diving
According to the ITO, the investigation began in April 2012, when a provincial immigration official saw Wang walk into the department's Regina office carrying what the official believed was a stack of immigration applications.
It was particularly curious because Wang, who is also known as Chee, was in the midst of two-year suspension from participating in the Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program (SINP). According to the Crown, he was suspended from September 2008 to September 2010, "as he had been offering jobs from Saskatchewan companies that were not in existence and offering positions from a company for which authorization had not been received."
A SINP official did some digging around and discovered 19 active immigration applications that were suspicious, at least six of which appeared to be directly connected to Wang.
Isn't that kinda being sneaky?- Dave Moscaliuk, owner of Impact Printers
She sent the list to CBSA, where an investigator noticed something odd.
"All the businesses and employers/representatives exist, but the contact email addresses provided with the applications appear to belong to someone else," the ITO says.
While the legitimate businesses appeared to have real websites and corporate email accounts, the immigration applications in their name were being submitted from Hotmail accounts.
The investigator decided this was worth a deeper dive. In May 2012, they emptied the garbage bin in front of Wang and Cui's home in White City, east of Regina, and started sifting through it.
What they found helped them crack open what they say was a massive immigration fraud scheme.
Former mayor's business involved
The ITO alleges that for more than a decade, Wang and Cui were actively recruiting Saskatchewan businesses willing to offer jobs to Chinese nationals.
As part of its evidence, CBSA pointed to Regina-based Knight Archer Insurance, which is owned by former Regina mayor Doug Archer and his wife, Gloria.
The ITO contains a database of 1,200 names of Chinese nationals. Beside many of those names is the name of a Saskatchewan business and a contact person.
Knight Archer Insurance and Gloria Archer's name appear by the names of 16 Chinese nationals.
Doug Archer acknowledged in an interview with CBC that his company hired two to three "very good staff" using Wang's services. But he said he's not too familiar with the details.
"I wasn't really very involved in that at all. That was Gloria that had some involvement," he said.
During CBSA's search of Wang and Cui's home, they discovered a chequebook. It indicated that in 2012, Gloria Archer was the recipient of two payments: one for $3,000 and another for $7,000.
CBSA says this is evidence that Wang and Cui were "paying Saskatchewan business owners for providing fraudulent job offers to foreign nationals."
The agency also says it has email correspondence between Qi Wang and Gloria Archer in which Archer wrote, "We were not clear on what happens with these referrals, do James and I get a fee for each referral?" To which Wang responded, "Yes."
Doug Archer said he doesn't know anything about those alleged payments. He also said his lawyer had advised him not to discuss it, as the matter is before the courts.
Gloria Archer hasn't replied to CBC's request for an interview.
She is one of about 20 business people who've been called as witnesses in the case.
'I helped him to submit all information'
Dave Moscaliuk, the owner of Regina-based Impact Printers, has also been called to testify.
He confirmed with CBC that in 2012, Wang asked if he would be willing to offer jobs to Chinese nationals looking to immigrate to Canada.
He said it didn't seem to matter to Wang whether there was an actual job available. He just wanted the job-offer letter.
"He wanted us to sign and agree that we'll find a job, and if we don't have one, he'll find one for them," Moscaliuk recalled. "So he was just trying to bring them into the country."
The ITO indicates Impact made job offers to four Chinese nationals.
The documents say that on May 29, 2012, an official with SINP called Moscaliuk to ask some questions about one of those offers.
Moscaliuk told SINP that the email Wang had used for the immigration application wasn't an official Impact Printers address, and that it was set up by Wang.
According to the ITO, Wang quickly did some damage control by emailing an explanation to SINP.
He said Moscaliuk is a friend and let him find some skilled workers for his business.
"I helped him to submit all information for him," Wang's email says.
He apologized for any inconvenience, explaining that he was just helping Moscaliuk.
Recorded conversation accidentally becomes evidence
Then some unexpected evidence dropped into CBSA's lap after a conversation between Wang and Moscaliuk was accidentally recorded.
According to the ITO, on June 15, 2012, Moscaliuk left a phone message with SINP looking for the password to access his online SINP application.
"When Mr. Moscaliuk finished leaving his message, it seems that he tried to hang up his phone but was unsuccessful," the ITO says.
The voice mail recorded a discussion between Moscaliuk and a man CBSA believes is Wang.
According to CBSA's summary of the recording, the other man's voice is inaudible at times, but it is still possible to understand much of the discussion.
What's clear, the agency says, is that Moscaliuk "does not plan on actually employing the foreign nationals that he plans to offer jobs to."
At one point in the conversation, the other man assures Moscaliuk: "They won't ask you about it."
"Isn't that kinda being sneaky?" Moscaliuk replies, concluding himself that it is.
"So, can I be charged ... if these people are coming over here and they get into the country and they didn't have a job here and I am standing behind it?" Moscaliuk asks.
When reached by CBC News, Moscaliuk said he had no idea the conversation had been recorded.
He seemed taken aback after CBC read him a transcript.
"This kind of felt like an accusation call," he said. "I think my mind's racing … What the hell did I do wrong?"
Moscaliuk said he never hired anyone using Wang's services. He said he ended his relationship with Wang after he discovered Wang had put his name on immigration paperwork from a competitor's business.
Workers in the midst of a boom
According to CBSA's account, Moscaliuk wasn't the only business person Wang claimed to be helping.
In an interview, Mike Fritzler told CBC that Wang first reached out to him back in 2012, when Fritzler was the owner of Regina-based Fact Computer. The company has since been sold.
Fritzler said at that time, the province was in the midst of a jobs boom and it was tough to find workers.
He said he needed a few employees and Wang promised to handle everything.
"Well, that's a businessman's dream, right? Where you're going, 'OK, you're going to find everybody. You're going to handle all the paperwork. All I need to do is interview them and be sure they're going to fit the job and hire them,'" Fritzler said. "That's perfect."
Only it wasn't perfect.
According to the ITO, Fritzler's relationship with Wang came to the attention of CBSA while investigators were digging through Wang's trash.
They came across a job offer letter that was signed by "Mike Ferizker (sic)" and referred to the company as "Fact Coputers (sic)."
The investigators thought it peculiar that the head of a computer company couldn't spell "computer," not to mention "highly unusual that someone would misspell their own name."
In an interview with CBC, Fritzler said he knew Wang was going to make some job offers on behalf of Fact Computers.
"I told him I only needed a few," said Fritzler. When CBC asked how many people he needed specifically, Fritzler said "two or three."
However, an email exchange between Wang and Fritzler, detailed in CBSA's ITO, suggests the Regina businessman was open to offering nine jobs. But he got more than he bargained for.
"You put 21 positions on my file!!," Fritzler wrote to Wang on Aug. 20, 2012. "You told me only 9!"
Wang replied: "21 positions. Make sure 21 all approved."
CBC asked Fritzler why he originally said he needed just two or three workers when he seemed to have been expecting nine.
"We were growing very significantly at the time. So, could we have used all nine? Possibly. Could I have used two? Definitely. Could have used five? Maybe."
According to the ITO, Fritzler told Wang he was put in an awkward position during a conversation with an immigration official.
"You have to tell me this stuff," he told Wang. "I sounded like an idiot when she asked me about each position and how many people."
Fritzler told Wang an immigration officer was digging into his files because Wang had forged and misspelled Fritzler's signature.
Wang apologized, telling Fritzler, "I know you are super busy. So I just signed it for you."
All of this led CBSA to conclude "there were no valid jobs for the SINP applicants that had job offers from Mike Fritzler."
Fritzler said he really did want to hire a handful of people and he interviewed a couple of Chinese nationals referred by Wang.
However, in the end, nothing came of it, he said.
"I never was able to hire anybody and everything was messed up."
Wang and Cui's own companies offered jobs, too
CBSA's ITO says there is also evidence that Wang and Cui put out more than 20 fraudulent job offers for companies they created.
Between 2004 and 2011, the couple set up at least eight companies, including two restaurants, two trading companies, an immigration firm, a general store and a construction company.
The agency says it has evidence that at least some of these businesses were fronts for their immigration scheme.
Not just in Regina
The alleged scam doesn't just involve businesses in Regina. CBSA found evidence that Wang and Cui also targeted several small communities in southern Saskatchewan.
At its peak, Loretta Threinen's Estevan-based business, KO Advertising, had just three employees.
She was stunned when CBC informed her that, according to the ITO, KO Advertising had offered eight jobs to Chinese nationals, including for customer service manager and sales manager.
"Holy crap," she said. "Unbelievable."
"I did not write those [job offer] letters," Threinen said. She also pointed out that the address listed on the letter offering the sales manager's position was not KO's.
Bill Singh, who runs the Indian Head Motel Bar and Grill, says he and his wife have been the only full-time employees for years.
He said he was surprised when CBC told him CBSA found evidence his motel had issued six job-offer letters.
In Wang and Cui's trash, CSBA investigators found a completed job offer for a Chinese national dated Feb. 17, 2012, to work at Singh's motel.
Singh insists it's fake and CBSA officials appear to back him up.
The ITO notes that the document has "Indian Head Bar & Grill" taped on the top of the page and a small piece of paper taped to the bottom with the signature "Bill Singh."
CBSA also says it found a sheet containing a bunch of handwriting, including evidence that someone was "attempting to practise or replicate the signature of Bill Singh."
Singh says he never signs with his English first name "Bill" but only with his Indian first name.
He hasn't been called as a witness to the pending trial, but more than 40 others have, including 20 Saskatchewan business people. None of them has been charged in this matter.