Salim Damji
BREAKING NEWS Duo arrested in $400,000 'romance and investment' Ponzi scheme CTV Toronto   Published Thursday, January 15, 2015 4:09PM EST  Two people have been arrested for their alleged involvement in what police are calling a "romance and investment" Ponzi scheme that saw eight female victims lose approximately $400,000. Investigators with York Regional Police say the suspect found his victims on online dating sites or local bars. They say he told them he was a financial expert and after dating the women for a short period of time, he would ask them for money. In one incident, police say he befriended a woman who he met several times at an Aurora, Ont., bar before convincing her to invest more than $50,000. He allegedly told her that he could generate significant short-term returns for her investment. Police received a tip about that incident last April, and launched an investigation into the suspect. "He described himself as Richard Gere from the movie 'Pretty Woman,'" Det. Kevin Bardai told CTV Toronto. "(Gere's character) lived a lifestyle (in that film) and he wanted to basically have the same lifestyle." A Ponzi scheme sees an individual or organization pay returns to investors that are received from newer investors. Police say the other seven victims are also believed to have invested approximately $50,000 in the alleged scheme. One woman, who did not want to be identified, said she met the suspect on an online dating site in 2012. She alleges that over a two- year period, she gave him more than $67,000. "I'm just feeling a lot of mixed emotions right now," she told CTV Toronto. "More numb than anything else. I feel like it's a nightmare." Salim Damji, 45, was arrested in Stouffville on Monday. Police say one of his victims became suspicious of him and searched his name online. "She just Googled his name and got all this information," Bardai said. "She realized, 'Oh my God, what have I just done?'" Damji was previously sentenced more than 10 years ago to six years in prison for his involvement in a tooth-whitening fraud scheme. Police say nearly 4,000 victims lost approximately $77 million. Police also allege Damji was working with a female accomplice who assisted him in the scheme. He is charged with: • Fraud over $5,000 • Fraud over $5,000 Public • Laundering Proceeds of Crime • False Pretences Tatiana Krainova, 39, of Whitchurch-Stouffville is charged with: • Fraud over $5,000 • Fraud over $5,000 Public • Laundering Proceeds of Crime Damji is also known under the aliases Sal Palermo, Sal Darsee, Santos Palermo, Rico Palermo and Santos Salvator. Anyone with information can contact Det. Ken Bardai with the York Regional Police Major Fraud Unit at 1-866-876-5423, ext. 6671, Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS, leave an anonymous tip online at, or text your tip to CRIMES (274637) starting with the word YORK.
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BREAKING NEWS Whitchurch-Stouffville pair arrested in 'romance investment' scheme  By Kevin Connor, Toronto Sun  First posted:  Thursday, January 15, 2015 05:57 PM EST  TORONTO - Two people have been arrested in a romance and investment Ponzi scheme where eight victims were scammed out of $400,000, York Regional Police said Thursday. In April, the fraud squad became aware of a man who befriended a victim in a Aurora bar and after several meetings convinced her to make investments with the promise of significant short-term returns. “There weren’t investments, the victims were involved in a romance scheme. (A man) would describe his lifestyle like Richard Gere in Pretty Woman and tell (the victims) he had investments in companies in the U.S. and the U.K. and was working on building a hospital in East Africa,” said Det. Ken Bardai. The victim from the Aurora bar agreed to give $50,000 which was transferred to various accounts. The man allegedly used a portion of the money to pay other victims small amounts of money to show a return on their investment., police said. “It’s borrowing from Peter to pay Paul,” Bardai said. The investigation discovered several other victims who had been allegedly scammed with the help of a female accomplice who helped with the money transfers. On Monday, both suspects were arrested in the Town of Whitchurch-Stouffville. Salim Damji, 45, of Whitchurch-Stouffville has been charged with several fraud-related offences, including fraud over $5,000. Damji also goes by the aliases Sal Palermo, Sal Darsee, Santos Palermo, Rico Palermo and Santos Salvatore, police said. Tatiana Krainova, 39, of Whitchurch-Stouffville​ has also been charged with fraud over $5,000 as well as other related offences. Police said they believe there are more victims and are asking them to come forward and make a report. “We believe there are a lot more victims because of his past record,” Bardai said. Call 1-866-876-5423, ext. 6671 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) with any information.
BREAKING NEWS Stouffville man arrested in $600K Ponzi scheme - Alleged victims continue to come forward   Stouffville Sun-Tribune By Jeremy Grimaldi   When Salim Damji wanted to meet women, it didn't take much for the "good looking, charismatic" man. He would either attend Aurora's well-healed eatery and dance club Greystones or he would log onto the free online dating site Plenty of Fish. At the beginning, the alleged con appeared to be a romance scam, where he would drain women for thousands of dollars and disappear. However, in the end, York Regional Police Det. Karim Bardai said the scheme, involving multiple women and men, evolved into a Ponzi scheme, where he would show an initial return on "invested" money before taking even more and running. Since Monday's arrest the amount of money has grown from $400,000 to $600,000 and four more victims have come forward. This was not the first time Damji, 45, from Stouffville, has been involved in these sorts of alleged scams. In 2002, he was found guilty of bilking thousands of dollars from friends and family members associated with him through his religious group, the Ismailis, a sect of Islam. During a two-year period, he pulled off one of Canada's largest scam when he took millions, with promises that people would earn back $20 on the dollar with his teeth whitening scam, named Instant White. Although some suggested he had funnelled this money to the Caribbean for his retirement, now, years after serving his time in prison, investigators believe he gambled it all away, in part because he has since been nabbed for trying to pull off much smaller scams, including trying to deposit a stolen cheque for $8,000. "Gambling has been a problem for him in the past," Det. Jeff Thomson, of the Toronto police, told the Toronto Star in 2007, adding that if he's stooping to cheque fraud, he doesn't likely have the cash many thought he had stashed away. Melissa (not her real name) hopes this wasn't done with her money after she gave Damji $67,000 after dating him for more than a year starting in 2013. "That's my life's savings," she said. "The bastard made me wait for him for over a year." According to Det. Bardai, this time around, Damji was being forced to jump through more hoops than in the past, allegedly using a woman by the name of Tatiana Krainova so he could hold the money in a Canadian bank account, which he is no longer allowed to open. Krainova's been charged with fraud over $5,000 and laundering proceeds of crime. "He's a smooth talker," Det. Bardai said. "He played the role of Richard Gere in Pretty Woman — he said he bought companies, broke them up and sold them for a lot of money. But the result is terrible, he's destroyed these people's lives. These people are under huge stress. One victim had a miscarriage as a result of this." Det. Bardai added that police have not reclaimed anything of value from Damji, except for the economy car he was driving, meaning this time around, he was not living the life of luxury of the past. During his last trial, it came out that he had spent $4 million on property, including $800,000 on a waterfront condominium, which he paid for in cash, a strip mall in Toronto worth millions and two houses in Markahm. According to Det. Bardai, there was also plenty of gambling going on, including at casinos, Proline and online gambling. When Melissa found out about the addiction, her reaction was one of shock. "Oh my god, that means I may never get it  back," she said. "I had no idea." The story she tells is one of shock that a man could be so "vile". She said she went on one date with him in Sept. 2013, during which he told her he was an investment banker at RBC and asked her if she wanted to invest. Although she repeatedly said no during the night out, he kept calling her, acting as though the pair were in a relationship. Melissa eventually had to take care of a sick relative and needed money, so sent him $50,000, which he said he could provide a quick return on. She followed that up with a number of other payments, despite never seeing any money back. "He would always say he was stuck in meetings, he was in Seattle, North Carolina, San Francisco," she said. Although she never saw Damji, who had told her his name was Salman Darsi, she said the pair continued a relationship over the phone until Valentine's Day in 2014 when Damji promised to see her, but didn't show. "I got upset with him," the university educated woman in her 30s said. The very next day, she said Damji called her with news that he had to fly to India to take care of his parents who had just been in a near fatal car accident and were both in a vegetative state. "I was suspicious, but he would say little things that made me believe him. He would tell me what time it was where he was and it was the right time," she said. "He would say he had to go into another area of the hospital because he couldn't use his cellphone around the heart monitors." During this time, Melissa said he was sending her photographs of himself and having "flirty" conversations over the phone. He even asked her to send him more money to help him build a hospital in Ethiopia, something with which she says she had always wanted to get involved. When she began asking for her money back, he told her he couldn't get it to her as the Canada Revenue Agency was investigating him and had frozen his accounts, she said. It was after this that she called private investigators to look into his past. However, they could find nothing on "Salman Darsi", so she carried on speaking to him, pretending she knew nothing, in the hopes of getting her money back. But eventually he stopped calling entirely, she said. She would eventually receive an email from Krainova, who asked her to stop speaking to her "boyfriend", she said. After further exchanges, the woman on the other end told her his real name, she added. Melissa eventually looked online and find a trove of details and websites, created by his victims, about Damji and his criminal past. "He's a charming guy, he was sweet and nice. I hoped it was real because if it was, it would have been great, but by the time my logic kicked in, it was too late," she said. "He was well spoken, well groomed, chivalrous, polite and well mannered. I am a smart girl, I make a modest living, but I have managed to live quite well." Melissa said she got the $67,000 when she sold her home to move back in with her parents and was hoping to use the money to help a sick relative. "He made a fool out of me and I can't believe I fell for it, him sweet talking me into it. I thought I was smarter than that, but I fell for it," she added. "He's not a human being, he's a predator, no human would prey on the vulnerable like this and takes advantage of people at their worst. I don't trust anyone anymore. I don't want to meet anyone. I have become reclusive and I'm always looking over my shoulder." She said since the incident, she has also become "isolated and depressed and cynical". "There's nothing in this man that's empathetic," she said, adding she can't figure out why he kept stringing her along for so long. "I feel sorry for his parents, but then I think kind people don't raise people that grow up to be like this. Why didn't he just take the money and disappear? It’s the emotional manipulation that I don't get." After being convicted of the 2002 fraud, the parole board said Damji admitted the fraud was fuelled by his gambling addiction and for that he had received treatment. It added that he bet $500,000 at a time, a compulsion stemming from low-self esteem as he bought "people's love with money and gifts. — with files from the Toronto Star