WINNIPEG — As many as 140 Manitoba businesses may have been bilked of money after being snared in an alleged telemarketing and advertising scam.
And now, the province has won a court order freezing a Niverville-based man’s assets in connection with an extensive cross-provincial inquiry led by Winnipeg police.
William Murphy has for years been the director of four companies soliciting ads for four police-related publications that never existed, under the titles “Police News of Winnipeg,” “Police News of Manitoba,” “Police News of Saskatchewan” and “Police News of Alberta,” officials state in documents filed in the Court of Queen’s Bench.
Manitoba’s criminal property forfeiture unit quietly moved to obtain a court order in December temporarily barring Murphy from doing anything with bank accounts or property known to be tied to him or the publications. Officials allege they are either proceeds or instruments of unlawful activity.
Between July 2009 and May 2013, more than $90,000 was deposited among TD Bank accounts tied to Murphy, the province claims. The province asserts the money was garnered through solicitations for advertisements in the bogus newsletters and was “converted to personal use.”
“Approximately 140 businesses have been identified that paid for advertising in the publications … some businesses paid for advertising multiple times, some over multiple years,” the province states.
“The amount of money that flowed through William Murphy’s various accounts … leads me to believe that the amount of loss to the various victims will be well over $100,000,” John Ormondroyd of the forfeiture unit states in a sworn affidavit.
At the time of the court application, Ormondroyd states police had been able to confirm 70 victims with a loss of just under $70,000.
Murphy has not yet filed a statement of defence and the allegations made against him are unproven. Provincial court records show he is not currently facing criminal charges. A message left for Murphy on Wednesday at a hone number associated with Police News of Manitoba went unreturned.
The province’s bid to freeze Murphy’s assets comes in the wake of an extensive Winnipeg police commercial crime investigation that saw local officers reach out to colleagues in Regina and Calgary for assistance putting pieces of their case together.
The months-long probe — dubbed “Project Glutton” — got underway April 29 after police received a handful of complaints relating to attempts to sell advertising for “Winnipeg Police News” or “Police News of Winnipeg,” Det. Sgt. Kathryn Antymis states in an affidavit.
Antymis says she reviewed several available internal police reports, including one involving a Churchill excavation business that reported paying $3,143 to advertise a number of times in “Police News of Manitoba,” but never saw a copy of the magazine.
The cheques were addressed to a building at 814 St. Matthews Ave. in Winnipeg and were deposited to a TD Bank account, she states.
Antymis said another officer drove by the building to find no signage in its front or rear and the windows and front door covered with plastic from the inside.
Police obtained warrants from a provincial court judge allowing them to photocopy any mail sent via Canada Post to 814 St. Matthews.
“Based on the mail examined, 20 potential victims were identified,” said Antymis. Three of the businesses — including a family resource centre for military members — said they had advertised with Police News but had never seen the publication, she states.
» Winnipeg Free Press
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition January 2, 2014