Fredericton police have issued a Canada-wide warrant for a disbarred lawyer accused of multiple fraud charges.
In a press release, the Fredericton Police Force says it is attempting to locate Yassin Choukri, 53, for seven counts of indictable fraud over $5,000 and one count of indictable fraud under $5,000.
Choukri’s last known address is in the Greater Toronto Area, Fredericton police said.
The Canada-wide warrant is the culmination of an investigation that began in 2016, after the Fredericton Police Force received two separate fraud complaints from individuals in December of that year.
An investigator was assigned to the files to follow up a short time later.
In New Brunswick, all criminal charges require pre-approval by the Crown Prosecutors Office prior to being laid in court.
As a result of an unspecified conflict of interest, the New Brunswick Crown directed any charges to be forwarded to the Nova Scotia Crown Prosecutors Office in Halifax where they would be considered.
Then in July 2017, in the midst of the ongoing investigation, the New Brunswick Law Society informed the Fredericton police that they were conducting their own internal investigation into Choukri.
The law society told police they would file a criminal complaint at a later date.
Documents posted online by the New Brunswick Law Society allege that Choukri misappropriated funds totalling more than $723,000 from multiple clients, that he abandoned his clients and his practice without advising his law associates, clients or family, withdrew a sum of $21,658 from his trust account after being served with a notice of suspension and committed several breaches of the Uniform Trust Account Rules.
A panel of the law society’s discipline committee found him guilty on all charges after he failed to appear for the hearing and ordered him disbarred on Dec. 7, 2017.
Fredericton police received an official complaint from the law society which generated an additional five files for investigation.
A spokesperson for the police force said the investigation continued into the first part of 2018, with the lead investigator meeting with the Nova Scotia Crown’s Office in July to have the charges approved based on the information provided by the New Brunswick Law Society.
“The charges were not approved at that time, and further work was required, including an additional production order to obtain more information from the Law Society,” said Alycia Bartlet, a spokesperson for the police force.
Assistance and a lack of expertise in forensic accounting resulted in the police asked for assistance from the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada as well as the Forensic Accounting Management Group.
In the fall of 2019, the Forensic Accounting Management Group told police they needed more information to complete their audit, which acquired an additional production order, the police.
A new lead investigator was assigned to the investigation at that time and as a result of the investigation was able to find two additional file, bringing the total to nine, although that required additional production orders.
“We estimate that the investigation to date has increased the total loss to significantly more than was first reported to us by the Law Society,” said Bartlett.
Production orders were approved by the Nova Scotia Crown’s Office on Jan. 15, 2020, which were served to three separate financial institutions.
“At this time, eight fraud charges have been formally laid and a warrant for Mr. Choukri’s arrest has been issued,” said Bartlett.
All charges are related to the fraud reports detailed by the law society.
None of them have been tested in a court.
Anyone with information on Choukri’s whereabouts is urged to contact Detective Matt LeBlanc of the Fredericton Police Force at 506-460-2300 or by email at email@example.com