A Burnaby, B.C., man has been identified by RCMP as a suspect in a widespread scheme by organized crime groups accused of posing as Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) officers to scam Canadians.
The RCMP investigation into the operation — laid out in B.C. Supreme Court documents — led police to search the home of Haoran Xue last July after officers linked the 26-year-old to retail mailboxes throughout Metro Vancouver.
According to the lawsuit filed mid-November by the director of B.C.’s Civil Forfeiture Office, those mailboxes were used by Xue to collect hundreds of thousands of dollars from victims in the form of cash or gift cards.
The lawsuit goes on to share the RCMP’s claims that Xue, who also went by Charlie, has transferred $1 million in and out of his bank accounts since January 2019.
Xue was arrested for fraud and forging a document after his home was searched.
A cellphone found on him contained names of victims he had extorted, along with the amounts of money those victims were meant to send to the retail mailboxes.
A list of those mailboxes was also found on the phone.
Xue’s phone also contained a video in which Xue “unboxes a parcel containing cash stored within a book.”
Home ‘an instrument of unlawful activity’
According to the lawsuit, the RCMP’s federal serious organized crime division began an investigation in June into the scam, which has been reported by various police agencies across the country for years.
It involves criminals posing as CRA agents, police and other officials, who convince victims they are under investigation or have outstanding debts and demand payment through various methods, including gift cards and Bitcoin.
Between mid-June and early July, the lawsuit claims the RCMP surveilled Xue and an associate attending a bank where the associate, under Xue’s direction, purchased a bank draft of more than $104,000.
RCMP found more than US$161,000 had been transferred to the associate in the days prior to that transaction.
Through their search of his home on July 6, police found evidence that showed Xue intended to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to the home’s mortgage broker and Xue’s, father Zenggang Xue, the registered owner of the property.
Zenggang Xue, who the lawsuit says is believed to live in China, is also named a defendant.
Police also found several fraudulent driver’s licences and a mortgage renewal letter addressed to one of the names listed on those licences.
The lawsuit alleges Xue’s home, which was built in 2015 and is assessed at $1.9 million, was paid for with the proceeds of several scams and was used as “an instrument of unlawful activity.”
The Civil Forfeiture Office is asking to seize Xue’s Burnaby home as proceeds of crime, along with all mortgages and proceeds earned while Xue was living there.
“If the property is not forfeited and/or proceeds from the sale of the property are released to the defendants, they will likely be used for … unlawful activity,” the lawsuit states.
None of the claims laid out in the lawsuit have been proven in court.
The RCMP confirmed Thursday the investigation is ongoing, and no charges have been laid.
According to the Better Business Bureau, scams involving people posing as CRA agents bilked Canadians out of $3 million back in 2015.
In 2016, that figure had gone up to $4.3 million, and by 2017, it topped $5 million.
In total, RCMP say the scam has cost roughly 4,000 victims about $15.2 million.
Last month, when 32 people were arrested at an Indian call centre linked to the CRA scam, the RCMP said 19 similar call centres were dismantled last year in that country alone.
—With files from Tomasia DaSilva and Amanda Connolly