Montréal (November 23, 2020) – Quebec’s anti-corruption unit (UPAC) charged two former employees of the Lester-B.-Pearson School Board, Caroline and Christina Mastantuono, with fraud, forgery, and breach of trust. The alleged scheme took place between 2014 and 2016 at a major Montreal-area English-language school board, where the two women worked at the board’s international department. Police alleged that they collaborated with a recruitment company causing a financial risk to the board and deceiving the province’s immigration ministry. A third suspect, who controlled the recruitment company is still wanted.
UPAC, Quebec’s anti-corruption unit, arrested Caroline and Christina Mastantuono in connection with an alleged fraud scheme conducted at the Lester-B.-Pearson School Board, according to a press release. The police are still looking for a third suspect in the fraud case.
The alleged Lester-B.-Pearson School Board fraud plot
Between 2014 and 2016, both women worked in the Lester-B.-Pearson School Board international department while the alleged fraud took place. Caroline Mastantuono was the director and her daughter, Christina, was an employee of the international department of the major Montreal-area English-language school board.
The UPAC alleged that the women conducted a fraud scheme together with a recruitment company controlled by a third suspect. As a result of the investigation, they are accused of causing a financial risk to the school board and deceiving Quebec’s immigration ministry.
‘Edu Edge’ and the third suspect
According to Radio-Canada, the third suspect, who is still wanted is Naveen Kolan, an Ontario businessman. Reportedly, he runs the foreign student recruitment firm ‘Edu Edge’, which had a contract with the Lester-B.-Pearson School Board to recruit foreign students, mainly from India.
Mother and daughter are accused of collaborating with Edu Edge to attract students before they had the proper documentation and without paying ahead of time, which is required by law. Police allege that they produced and used false documents to conduct the scheme.
In a statement, the school board said that it ‘became aware of irregularities in the International Studies department in 2016,’ and that it immediately reported the irregularities to Quebec’s Ministry of Education and UPAC as well as ended the employment with both women.
Two former school board employees arrested
On November 20, officers arrested Caroline and Christina Mastantuono and charged them with multiple offenses, including fraud, forgery, and uttering false documents. Caroline Mastantuono was additionally charged with breach of trust. The two suspects were released on a promise to appear in court on January 20, 2021.
According to the Montreal Gazette, Caroline Mastantuono founded Rising Phoenix International, a company, which recruits international students to study in Quebec institutions and collects a commission on the students’ tuition fees, after she left the school board.
Furthermore, the Gazette reported that Rising Phoenix International is the subject of a class-action lawsuit request that is currently before the court and has yet to be approved by a judge.