A 58-year-old Oakville man accused of operating a fraudulent magazine for more than a decade allegedly solicited more than $1 million often by placing cold calls to local businesses throughout Ontario.
“It’s not a good feeling,” Navid, a certified Mortgage specialist in the Toronto area, who purchased ad placements in the purported publication, entitled ‘Ontario Police Public Safety News,’ for several years, told CTV News Toronto Tuesday.
“All that money, I could have spent on something real, something that would help,” he said. CTV News Toronto has withheld Navid’s surname in an effort to protect his identity.
It was 2016 when Navid said he first received a phone call with an ID that read ‘Ontario police.’ When he picked up, he was offered the opportunity to market his business in the publication. Having just become a mortgage specialist, he said he jumped on the opportunity to market his services in the Toronto Area – plus, the publication told him that a portion of his money would be donated to community youth programs, he said.
The person on the other end of the call asked for an advertisement and a business card from Navid, before organizing a time to pick up a cheque for just over $150, he said.
Navid says he never saw a physical copy of the publication, despite requesting one be sent to him, and that the company became increasingly demanding, upping the frequencies of their calls and asking for larger sums. At times, he said he entertained suspicions about the validity of the project, but that, because he believed it to be associated with a police service, he felt inclined to continue his support.
“They were asking for more and more, but I thought they were the Ontario police, and I felt too shy to say no, to stop the calls,” he said.
A screengrab from Ontario Police Public Safety News’ websites can be seen above. (Ontario Police Public Safety News/Website)
Over the course of about four years, Navid sent just over $500 to the company, thinking he was renewing his advertisement status – and allegedly, he wasn’t the only one.
On Monday, Azher Hyder was arrested by Toronto police and charged with one count of fraud over $5,000.
Echoing Navid’s account, investigators said that Hyder would falsely tell business owners that the magazine was widely distributed throughout the province in an effort to sell ads and solicit donations, and also often told individuals that funds would be donated to community youth programs later found to be non-existent.
When reached for further information Tuesday, a detective with Toronto police told CTV News Toronto that Hyder had allegedly collected more than $1 million “from many victims in small amounts” between 2011 and 2023.
“The accused would cold call [businesses] throughout the province and solicit donations,” TPS Dct. Cst. Sean Vandecamp said, adding that the investigation revealed a “significant number of victims.”
According to the detective, some early copies of the magazine do exist in physical form; however, he said there are no current copies available and that the publication was never widely distributed.
Police believe there could be additional victims yet to come forward. They are encouraging anyone who believes they were victim of the alleged scam to contact [email protected] and an investigator will be in touch with them.
Three images from Ontario Police Public Safety News’ website purporting to be issue covers can be seen above.