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Ontario man found guilty of trying to defraud N.S. town out of nearly $500,000

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A man living in Ontario has been convicted of fraud after he tried to defraud the Town of Bridgewater out of nearly half a million dollars in a bizarre case involving the small town, a Nova Scotia construction company, a Big Five bank, Nigeria and China.

In a written decision released on Monday by the courts of Nova Scotia, Judge Paul Scovil said he found Ayoola Ajibade guilty of fraud beyond a reasonable doubt in the 2019 incident.

According to the document, the accounts payable clerk for the town of Bridgewater, N.S. received an email purporting to be from the divisional controller of Dexter Construction on Oct. 22, 2019.

“The clerk recognized the individual’s name and knew that the Town had numerous contracts with Dexter Construction,” the decision reads.

“The email requested the forms necessary to allow Dexter Construction to conduct business through Electronic Fund Transfers (EFT) allowing direct deposit to a Scotiabank account.”

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The clerk sent the required forms to the same email address and they were filled in and returned to the town’s office.

The EFT form directed that funds owed to Dexter Construction were to be paid to a Scotiabank account, which turned out to be an account belonging to Ajibade in a branch in Brampton, Ont.

The court heard that witnesses from Dexter Construction testified that they had not requested the EFT forms or filled them out.

“Further, they did not bank with Scotiabank,” said Scovil.

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Scovil said evidence cited by the Crown shows that Ajibade, originally from Nigeria but now living in Brampton, had nothing to do with Dexter Construction or its group of companies in Nova Scotia.

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Shortly after the town changed its payment method for Dexter Construction to the false EFT mechanism, it received an invoice from the company for $490,930.43. The town wired the amount together “with two other large payments” to the Brampton Scotiabank branch on Nov. 4, 2019.

The following day, Ajibade went to his Scotiabank branch in Brampton to attempt a wire transfer of $180,000 to China.

“The teller on duty at the time stopped the wire transfer from being sent and indicated at the trial that it was placed in the pending category,” the court ruling said. “The teller then spoke to her manager given the large amount of the transfer.”

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Ajibade was advised on Nov. 6 of that year that a hold was placed on the transfer, and he needed to provide an invoice for the sum. He returned later in the afternoon with an invoice and told the bank employee that it was from “his investors.”

“In cross examination, the bank manager testified that Mr. Ajibade expressed frustration in the afternoon regarding the situation,” the decision said.

The bank then contacted the Town of Bridgewater and/or Dexter Construction, and, as a result of the conversation, did not transfer the money.

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The money was then returned to the town, which then paid Dexter Construction.

Defendant not credible ‘in the least’

Scovil said Ajibade, a Nigerian refugee who has lived in Canada since 2004 and at one point worked with a car parts manufacturer, testified on his own behalf.

He said in October 2019, he received a call from someone named Andrew, who lived in Nigeria. Ajibade did not know Andrew or what his last name was.

Andrew said he was a friend of Joshua’s. The decision said Ajibade once worked with a person named Joshua at the car parts plant, but he did not know his last name, address or contact information.

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Andrew told Ajibade that he needed his help to buy a business.

“Despite not knowing Andrew or how to contact Joshua, Mr. Ajibade said, ‘Okay, I’ll do it for you,’” Scovil wrote.

Two days later, Andrew called Ajibade, saying he was ready to buy the equipment he needed. Ajibade gave Andrew his banking information. Andrew then told him to check his account and transfer $180,000 to China.

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After Ajibade’s first trip to the bank, Andrew called him back and provided him with an invoice to bring to the bank.

“Mr. Ajibade stated in court that he inquired from Andrew where he got the money. Andrew said he would get back to him with that information. Andrew never called him again,” Scovil said.

“Mr. Ajibade denied knowing that the matter was not on the up and up. He broke down and cried for a short while on the witness stand, saying he would never get involved in such a scheme knowingly.”

However, the judge said the primary question of the case was that of credibility, and said the court “does not find him credible in the least.”

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Scovil noted that Ajibade asked the court to accept that he assisted Andrew – “last name unknown, location unknown, save and except Nigeria” – in acquiring the funds, and that his only connection to Andrew in this “bizarre tale” was a man named Joshua, “again name unknown.”

With this in mind, the judge said it is clear that Ajibade knew or ought to have known that the transaction was fraudulent.

“Even if I was wrong and the story spun by Mr. Ajibade had truth to it, I find he would still be guilty by way of wilful blindness,” said Scovil. “Mr. Ajibade would have had his eyes shut here and shut hard.”

Thus, Scovil found Ajibade guilty of fraud.

Two charges of impersonation were dismissed due to a lack of direct evidence that Ajibade signed documents or impersonated anyone.

Scovil said even though this case spans multiple areas, “there is a real and substantial link with Nova Scotia allowing jurisdiction by this court over the matters.”

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