A man is heading to a federal penitentiary after admitting his role in a “sophisticated” fraudulent passport scheme, allegedly involving a former federal Citizenship and Immigration employee.
Moshe Gur, 57, was set to go on trial this month but instead pleaded guilty late last year to being a party to a breach of trust, and three other fraud-related charges.
His alleged accomplice, Aline Zeitoune, worked at a Toronto passport office processing applications. Zeitoune has pleaded not guilty to breach of trust and other fraud and forgery charges.
Her judge-alone trial is set to start next week in Ontario Superior Court. Gur is on the witness list.
At Gur’s sentencing hearing Friday, Justice John McMahon said Gur and Zeitoune had known each other for many years. Between June 2012 and January 2013, she processed nine bogus Canadian passport applications that he prepared, the judge said. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrested the pair in July 2014.
“This is a sophisticated, co-ordinated plan to obtain fraudulent passports . . . it took time to set up a plan where Mr. Gur could exploit the fact that he had a contact inside the passport office,” McMahon said.
Gur’s attempt to obtain a passport for himself, under the name Michael Vangoor, was discovered by federal investigators using facial recognition technology. That passport was not issued.
But eight other fake passports were issued after Gur assembled fraudulent documents for customers, sent them to the same photography studio and instructed them to go to the counter four, where Zeitoune was stationed, the judge said.
Gur charged at least one person $15,000.
After the scheme came to light, some, not all, of the individuals who obtained fraudulent passports were charged and convicted.
The judge said he had several mitigating factors to consider when deciding the punishment. Gur has had a stable job while on bail along with a supportive fiancée — who was in court and hugged him before he was led away in handcuffs. He also took responsibility by pleading guilty, McMahon said.
Nevertheless, there were also aggravating factors. They include Gur’s conviction for fraud in Nevada in 2009 and the fact his actions undermine international confidence in Canada’s passport system.
“The integrity of the Canadian passport system is critical to the security of this country and other countries throughout the world, it is also critical to the confidence other countries can have in Canadian passports,” the judge said.
A lengthy period of incarceration is required to send a message of general deterrence and denunciation.
McMahon sentenced Gur to two years and six months in prison, minus six months for pretrial custody and house arrest.
Read the full story over at the Toronto Star.